Appearing on the page like the contents of a Crocodile’s jaw, Stage 9 barely offers the riders a flat stretch of road in the opening 130km. Despite the six categorised climbs, today never really injects super-steep ramps into the legs of the peloton which shelled a few riders yesterday, grinding the gears will be the approach instead. The terrain should play into the hands of a reasonably sized breakaway, as will the likely crosswinds which may cause issues in the peloton. The climbs may provide them with contrasting slopes (uphill v downhill) to the chasing pack behind; Le Markstein could be a likely catching place however if the break is not fully functional. Concluding with a 20km flat section after the final long descent, breakaways may start to fall apart as individuals try to avoid towing rivals to the line while simultaneously dodging the catch. Depending upon the contents of the breakaway, Astana may have to work harder than expected today in order to prevent a dark horse gaining time or even sneaking into the jersey. Truly an open day for a variety of riders and styles, offering the viewer a dramatic finish as outsiders duke it out for an unexpected win.
Tony Martin has been on the leash so far for the sake of OPQS’s sprint ambitions and keeping an eye on Kwiatkowski; today however could see him instigate an early break through the frantic start and time trial solo to the end,
Garmin have certainly lacked impact so far, that is excluding Talansky’s impacts upon the ground, today could be their chance to sneak in their typically unexpected Grand Tour win. Ramūnas Navardauskas certainly fits the mould of a breakaway rider for the day and is usually pretty handy when it comes to a select bunch kick. Tom Jelte-Slagter was somewhat of a disappointment yesterday, but did not seem totally out of contention and may have targeted today’s more generous slopes as an opportunity to win this year.
Alessandro De Marchi has a similar tale to Tony Martin in regards to his recent job requirements for Peter Sagan. If allowed to attack today while Cannondale protect Sagan in the pack, De Marchi could be involved with a move, but a win may be too far.
Team Europcar were blown away yesterday early on and subsequently lost any hope of a decent GC placing this year. With such pressure now lifted, they may decide to push on for a stage win today with the likes of Pierre Rolland and Cyril Gautier more than able.
Sylvain Chavanel has been a joy to watch over the last few days, excelling beyond his years to be part of several key moves. It would not be a surprise should he manage to sneak into yet another breakaway, but would have to play some canny tactics in order to win. Thoughts on Greg Van Avermaet are very similar and appears to be in relatively good form, the relentless climbing might be a step too far though today.
A raft of others who may be crucial in the outcome of Stage 9 still remains though, as team’s goals have altered due to the war of attrition in this first week. Katusha have been lacking so far, Simon Spilak though is likely to have a bash at today should the opportunity arise. Bretagne Seche have quietened down since the opening couple of days, but a wildcard for today could appear in the shape of Brice Feillu who has recovered some reasonable form as of late and will be looking to add to his solitary 2009 tour win.
It is unlikely to see any battling between the major GC contenders, but Alberto Contador looked strong yesterday and may wish to test Vincenzo Nibali once more before the final descent. Though most will be looking to save their legs for a horrendously important stage to Les Planches des Belles Filles tomorrow.