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Tour Stage 9 Preview: Saint-Gaudens - Tarbes

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Stage 9 :: Sunday July 12, 2009
160.5km :: Saint-Gaudens - Tarbes

One more spin through the Pyrénées, where we will try to keep the man eating wolves at bay as we climb over some of the highest stuff on offer in the crinkly ridge between Spain and France. Some big names in stock for tomorrow's stage, Cat.1 d'Aspin and Cat.HC Tourmalet! Climbing classics to make your heart glow.

This is the last mountain stage for a bit, but there's such a long run into the finish off of the Col du Tourmalet, that it may allow the autobus to catch up, although if the peloton can catch up with the inevitable break is a question.

Gavia... hit me with your best shot, fire away (and this time I'll try to get the linkage right).

Another day in the Pyrénées for the Tour de France with this stage from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes. There are two significant climbs on the menu, both at the midpoint of the stage. The Col d’Aspin is a frequent feature of the Tour de France and receives a category 1 rating, while the Col de Tourmalet is hors catégorie. The Tour rarely misses a chance to visit the Tourmalet, though this time around the summit is a significant distance from the finish. The Tour wants to keep the suspense high. These Pyrénées stages will tire the legs, but may not open up significant gaps among the favorites for the general classification.

Both Saint-Gaudens and Tarbes are frequent hosts to the Tour de France. The most recent visits to Saint-Gaudens came in 1999, when the city played host to both a stage finish and start. Dimitri Konyshev of Mercatone Uno won stage 14 in Saint-Gaudens in 1999, while Fernando Escartin won stage 15 which began in Saint-Gaudens and finished in Plau-Engaly. Konyshev escaped with an early break and won his fourth Tour stage in a two-up sprint against Gianni Faresin of Mapei. The following day, a mountain stage that included five major cols, Fernando Escartin of Kelme escaped solo to celebrate his first ever stage victory. Lance Armstrong of U.S. Postal held the Yellow Jersey on both days.

The Tour last visited Tarbes, meanwhile, for the start of stage 11 in 2006. Denis Menchov won the stage which finished on the category 1 Pla-de-Beret. Menchov won a three-up sprint against Levi Leipheimer and Floyd Landis, after the treesome distanced Carlos Sastre and Cadel Evans. The last stage finish at Tarbes took place in 1951. Serafino Biagioni won the stage, while Gilbert Bauvin, who finished second, took over the Yellow Jersey. The stage included the Col d’Aubisque, then a gravel road. On the descent from the Col d’Aubisque that day, Wim Van Est who began the day in the Yellow Jersey crashed, and fell some 40 meters into a ravine. Fortunately, his injuries proved less serious than they appeared initially and he proved able subsequently to continue his career.

Courtesy of Gavia's Stage 9 Preview at Steephill.tv

Ed. Note: The image hosting service I use to put the screen captures up got hacked today (Friday) and as a result, most of the images I put up were replaced by some assinine anti-security screed.  The end result is what you see below, and if these get burned, we'll remove them too.  Sorry for the confusion it causes.  I'll find a different solution for the future previews.  -crashdan

Let's have a look under the hood shall we?  Three notes... 1) apparently, I didn't get an overview screen capture (quel horreur!) and 2) my keyboard is dying on me so it's almost impossible to type this 3) It's 4:35PM on Friday right now and I have 4:50PM Brüno tickets.  I'm just gonna blast some images and point out the climbs.  Comment below as usual.  Carry on.  We're in the regions where some of you local riders can provide first hand accounts of these climbs as you already did on yesterday's stage, so please, feel free to add details in the commentary.

Col d'Aspin - 1490m in elevation climbing a vertical gain of 865m over a gradient of 6.4%.  Official course materials say the climb is 12.3km long.

Col du Tourmalet - 17.1km long to an elevation of 2115m, rising 1267 meters from the feed zone in Sante-Marie-de-Campan.  Average Gradient = 7.4%

My best guess as to the closing finish.  Not sure if it will make a difference since the composition of the first 15 riders to cross the line might not be critical to the Green Jersey competition.