Well, not fun and games, necessarily, but we’ve got a distinctly hilly stage with a tough climb of the pithily titled Montée de la Combe de Laisia les Molunes ending 12km before the end and providing the stage’s main challenge. Stage 9 will be brutal, but don’t underestimate this stage.
Profil de l’étape
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Domaine Philippe Bornard Arbois Pupillin, Trousseau, ‘Le Ginglet’
Light, lively and easy to drink red from village of Pupillin which is quite close to Arbois near the Swiss border.
Did you know?
We’re ever so close to Switzerland here, but the race remains in France. However, you’ve got ignorant old me writing this, so you won’t get the quality facts Will would be able to provide. If you ask nicely, I’m sure he’ll bring in some local colour down in the comments.
I have been to Champagnole, a town that the peloton will zip through on this stage. I remember it as less attractive than the surrounding countryside, but with fantastic food. In fact, all of the Jura has marvellous grub. So, let’s diverge from “did you know?” Instead I bring you, “have you tried?”
I use comté cheese, one of the local specialities, to make a topping for French onion soup. It is less traditional than gruyere but I prefer it as it sets more crispily and gives a nutty flavour. Make soup the way you like it, then toast some thin slices of baguette with olive oil, pop them on the surface of the soup in the bowl, coat the whole top (soup and bread) in grated comte, twenty seconds under the grill, and you have yourself a perfect supper. Mmm... French onion soup.
What’s at stake?
This is a stage that could have major GC significance, but probably won’t. The savage climbs that will follow on stage 9 mean that I’d expect the big names to keep their powder dry. Additionally, the 12km from the top of the last climb to the finish are rolling, rather than straight uphill (some sections have some rise, but it is far from being a mountaintop finish) which should make it possible for small gaps to be closed down.
Most likely, a biggish group of favourites will finish together, and a break will fight out the win – either a break that gets away very early, or one that goes somewhere around the 10-15km to go mark. The thing to watch for is one or two of the big favourites losing time on their rivals. If someone turns up on a bad day and gets gapped early on the MdlCdLlM (as nobody is calling it) it could be disastrous.
Obviously, the battle for polka dots is just beginning to gear up and there are plenty of points available this weekend. Look out for a decent climber without GC pretensions, either for himself or a teammate hitting breaks today and tomorrow. That'll be our man - unless the likes of Aru or Froome clean up.
Who’s going to win?
This is really hard to call. I’m going to work with my theory that this won’t be a GC day, and that four or five not-quite-favourites will go clear from an elite group of thirty or so, and fight it out on the rolling stuff before the finish and then sprint. With a vague feeling that I’m throwing darts here, I’m going to go with... George Bennett. He’s certainly a good enough climber to be in with a chance, is on decent form, is over two minutes back on GC, and is part of a team who are avowedly going for stages and jerseys.