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Tour de France Stage 9 Preview: Time Trial Day

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Le-tour_mediumOn Monday, the Tour de France heads to Arc-et-Senans for the first long time trial of the race. This Tour is made for the time trial specialists, and this stage is their first chance to distance their rivals. The riders face a 41.5 kilometer time trial from Arc-en-Senans to Besançon. For the yellow jersey contenders, Monday is a red-letter day. They must ride well if they want to keep their hopes of victory alive.

This time trial course favors the specialists. It's long and flat. There are no categorized climbs. It's all slightly undulating roads. Inside five kilometers to go, there are two 90-degree corners, both left-handers. Then, in the final kilometer, there is a tight right-hand hairpin. Really, that's just cruel, right there. This finish will reward the riders with the bike handling to match their legs.

After the first week of racing, the general classification battle between pre-race favorites Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins remains tight. On the race to la Planche des Belles Filles, Evans tried to seize the race lead, but Chris Froome foiled his plans. Evans tried again in the run-in to Porrentrury on Sunday, but Wiggins proved capable of keeping the Australian in check. Evans won the sprint for second, but it did little to help his cause. There are no time bonuses in this year's Tour.

This first week of the Tour has in truth blown the time gaps wide open. Only five riders sit within a minute of race leader Bradley Wiggins, and many of the pre-race favorites trail the yellow jersey by three minutes or more. And Wiggins, he can time trial something fierce. It's hard to imagine that Wiggins will not add to his advantage on Monday.

Currently, Wiggins leads Evans by ten seconds. Vincenzo Nibali sits third at 16 seconds, while Denis Menchov is 54 seconds behind Wiggins. Though Nibali may find this time trial too long and too flat, Menchov might prove the dark horse to overturn the standings.

In the white jersey competition, meanwhile, Tejay van Garderen is around a minute-and-a-half behind Rein Taramae. Monday's long time trial offers the American a shot at regaining the jersey he lost on la Planche des Belles Filles.

Brice Feillu, the first rider, rolls out at 9:45 French time (that's 12:45 am California time/3:45 am East Coast.) Bradley Wiggins, the yellow jersey, starts last at 16:39 France time (7:39 California/10:39 East Coast.) Here is the current general classification so you can play along at home.