Stage 9: Saint-Girons - Bagneres-de-Bigorre, 168 km
Stage rating: High mountains.
Jerseys in play:
Final climb of the day:
Sunday should be packed with action, featuring five pretty hefty climbs in the high Pyrenees and a long descent to the line in Bagneres-de-Bigorre. Following a day of dominance by Team Sky and a rest day on the horizon, look for the losers from Saturday to try to get themselves back into contention, while Team Sky tries to keep things under control.
None of the climbs made the top seven in Will's Mountains Preview but three of them outrank the climb to Ax-3-Domaines, where Chris Froome put paid to the rest of the peloton. In other words, it's not a day to take lightly by any means. The Col de Peyresourde, a Tour regular and #3 of 5 on this stage, is a steady 7% climb for 13 km, while La Hourquette d'Ancizan, pictured above, is the main course. If someone wants to put a hurt on someone else, they'll have that opportunity. And anyone who's suffering will be long gone from the leading group by the time the leaders point downhill for the line.
But strategically speaking, this course doesn't seem likely to produce the race-defining attacks we saw Saturday. More likely, Sky will want to ride hard and keep everyone in line, minimizing the chance of other teams' tactics coming into play. A stage like this with a long descent could be extremely exciting, but only if Sky allow that, and Sky will be heavily invested in keeping this stage, and this Tour, as boring as possible. The last meter of climbing is 20km from the line, so whatever happens on the uphill will likely be superseded by the descending tactics and the last km.
Pick to Win
Alejandro Valverde, Movistar. If at first you don't succeed, sit on wheels and sprint it out.