Preview: 2013 Tour de France — Stage 9

Saint Girons to Bagnères-de-Bigorre (168.5km)

Sunday, July 7 5:20 A.M. EDT – 10:18 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar

Chris Froome and Sky demonstrated they are the strongest team in the race in Saturday’s eighth stage entree to the Pyrénées. Froome is now riding in yellow and it will be very difficult to rip it off of him before Paris.

While stage 8 was one for the favorites, this second day in the Pyrénées looks like one for a breakaway. It’s a short stage of just 168.5km, but with five hard climbs on the menu, it won’t be an easy day in the saddle.

The riders targeting the polka dot Jersey will have this stage marked in their books and with four Cat. 1 climbs and one Cat. 2; this is indeed a very important stage for the KOM classification. The first climb, Col de Portet d’Aspet, starts after 23km and we can expect a break of 10-plus riders to get away towards the top. Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) attacked early on stage 8, but Sky never really gave him a chance. This stage looks a lot better for Voeckler and with a downhill finish, it’s almost tailor-made for the French animator.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) is another interesting rider for this stage. There is an intermediate sprint after 73km and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Sagan tried to get into the morning breakaway. In Tour de Suisse this year, Sagan was one of the best riders on the steepest climb of the race and after taking it easy on stage 8, he could try something spectacular again. Stages 10 and 11 are both made for the pure sprinters and if Sagan wants to close the battle for the green jersey for good, he now has a chance to do it. Sagan may not be able to follow the strong accelerations on the climbs, but with a 30km descent towards the finish, he has plenty of time to catch up.

The descent is not very technical and that means it won’t be easy for a lonely rider to stay away. It’s most likely we will get a sprint within a reduced group and if so, they need to pay close attention to the finish. After crossing the water, there is a 90-degree left turn with just 150 meters to go. The first man out of this corner will almost certainly win the stage.

Follow Mikkel Condé on Twitter @mrconde and visit C-Cycling to read more about stage 9 and see other contenders for the stage win in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.

Pain is on the menu

While yesterday’s stage might be summed up as a hill climb that was decided on the final ascent, stage 9 will have another flavor entirely. First, it’s relatively short at 165km. Next, it is extremely difficult, featuring five arduous passes. ASO wanted to complicate the racing strategy and maintain the suspense. That’s why there is a long and demanding 30km descent into the finish at Bagnères-de-Bigorre. The stage may inspire the likes of Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) to put together an interesting tactical plan in the hopes of upsetting the dominance of Sky.