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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 9 preview: A potential day for the breakaway as GC riders take back seat

There have been few opportunities for the breakaway to take victory, but Sunday's mountain stage could prove to be just that.

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (VN) — Opportunities for the breakaway to succeed at the Tour de France have been few and far between, but stage 9 could see the early move take the win.

So far, Wednesday’s cobbled stage has been the only true breakaway success with Simon Clarke (Israel-Premier Tech) winning out of the remnants of a six-man escape group. Wout van Aert’s (Jumbo-Visma) victory the previous day was solo, but it couldn’t really be considered a day for the break.

There have been days that looked a dead cert for the escape to make it to the line, but ambitions in the bunch behind have prevented it from panning out that way. La Planche des Belles Filles, which was raced Friday, is usually a successful hunting ground for the breakaway but Tadej Pogačar’s (UAE Team Emirates) desire to get the victory for himself saw Lennard Kӓmna (Bora-Hansgrohe) caught just shy of the line.

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Saturday’s finale into Lausanne also looked like it might be a good day for the move, but an early crash disrupted the flow of attacks and allowed a three-man group go up the road, which was always going to struggle against a keen peloton. As the rest day approaches, there’s hope that the break might be given a longer leash again.

“I think it will be an interesting one. I think it will maybe be one for the breakaway tomorrow. To be honest, the speed in the peloton has been so high since the start of the race, who knows. Hopefully a breakaway day,” Team DSM coach Matt Winston told VeloNews.

“I think the crash altered that a little bit [on stage 8] and the peloton waited, which was good. Also, BikeExchange and Jumbo had clear intentions on how they wanted the race to pan out. I think that [Sunday] has a bit more chance of being a breakaway.”

The climbing gets harder

After dipping into Switzerland for Saturday’s finish, the peloton sets out from the country Sunday morning with a start in Aigle — the home of the UCI — for a 192.9km day of racing. A flat opening 30 kilometers gives way to the mountains, beginning easy and getting progressively harder.

The fourth category Côte de Bellevue, a 4.3km ascent that averages four percent, opens the climbing up before the intermediate sprint at Semsales after 56 kilometers.

There’s a brief break from climbing before the second category Col des Mosses arrives after around 95 kilometers. The 13.3km climb averages 4.1 percent and takes the riders to almost 1,500 meters. A short descent follows before an uphill ride to the foot of the next ascent.

The highest point of the opening week comes next with a ride over the first category Col de la Croix, an 8.1km climb that averages 7.6 percent. From there, the riders tackle a lengthy descent back to Aigle, where it all began, before the final ride up to Châtel Portes du Soleil.

Before the peloton can consider the finish line, it must complete the first category Pas de Morgins, which begins just under 30 kilometers from the finish and finishes with just under ten to go.

The 15.4km climb averages 6.1 percent and tops out at 1,377 meters of altitude. It is a fairly steady climb with the gradient sitting somewhere between six and eight percent throughout much of the first 12km. It eases up toward the top, giving tired riders a chance to claw back some time.

Following the climb, the race returns back in France to complete the final eight kilometers. The final rise to Châtel les Portes du Soleil lasts just three kilometers and has a maximum gradient of seven percent. The small pitch in gradient could be the final opportunity for one of the breakaway riders to go clear if the winning attack hasn’t gone earlier on the final climb.

The stage is unlikely to see any big moves from the general classification, but the Tour de France is always ready to surprise people.

A day like this could be well suited to the likes of Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe), Michael Woods (Israel-Premier Tech), Pierre Latour (AG2R-Citroën), Joe Dombrowski (Astana-Qazaqstan), and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education First-EasyPost), to name just a few.

With a sniff of a possibility for the breakaway, we could see a big move going off the front and a big fight to make it.