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Tour de France Stage 9 Preview!

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Tour de France, Stage 8, Super Besse.

That was some good racing on Saturday, wasn't it? And how much fun to see two young riders, Rui Costa and Tejay van Garderen, go up the road. I heart me some of that. Sunday, it's back into the Massif Centrale. Now, with more climbing! Breakaway party!

The Tour de France continues to race through the Massif Centrale with Sunday's 208 kilometer stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour. If you look hard enough you might find a centimeter or two of flat road on this profile, but in the main, it's all up and down all the time. The stage includes eight categorized climbs, which is a remarkable number when it comes right down to it. The final climb to the line is much like Saturday's finish. This stage 9 should follow a similar pattern to Saturday, though there is more climbing on the menu. Here is the stage 9 profile.

The last major climb arrives just outside 50 kilometers to race when the riders climb the category 2 Col de Prat de Bouc. If there are any sprinters left, they will be gone after this 8.5 kilometer hop. It's still a long way to the finish from the summit, so this climb is unlikely to shake up the overall standings. Here is the profile for the Col de Prat de Bouc.

A break will almost certainly go early on Sunday, and they're in with a chance to survive to the finish. With so many mountains points on offer, there's plenty of motivation to join the escape. Behind, watch for a flurry of action from the bigs, but this stage is unlikely to upend the general classification.

Thor Hushovd of Garmin-Cervélo has so far resisted efforts to rip the Yellow Jersey off his back, and there's no reason to think he won't hang on another day. SMASH! Cadel Evans of BMC Racing Team still lurks 1 second behind Hushovd. We wait for the Pyrénées for the real Tour to begin. Here are the current race standings.