When Bastille Day falls on the day of a mountain stage, it is not generally too likely to affect the action. The same goes for when it falls on the day of a flat stage. However, the rolling stage nine might look altogether different because of the fact that it takes place on July fourteenth. So far this Tour the breakaway has disappeared up the road with minimal hassle, even on stage eight which looked like the most nailed-on break stage imaginable. On stage nine this simply must change. There are thirty-four French riders in this Tour de France and most of them will want to get in the front group for this stage so for once, the early coverage might actually be worth watching.
What happens, and who wins?
This one is very much on the line between a breakaway stage and a reduced sprint stage like stage five. Take a look at the profile:
It’s very up-and-down with very little flat, but also not a whole lot to tempt the GC riders. The category one climb summiting one hundred and thirty-four kilometres from the finish is quite obviously not going to be relevant (and, at less than four kilometres should not be a category one at all) and the second categorised ascent is not steep enough to trigger anything. The final climb, the Côte de Saint-Just along with the general bumpy nature of the stage will be enough to ensure an absence of pure sprinters no matter what the pace in the peloton is but at the same time, expect GC favourites to keep their powder entirely dry.
A Bastille Day breakaway is always an interesting one and there are some interesting French candidates to attempt to make this stage their own. Lilian Calmejane disappointed Jens by not going in the breakaway on stage eight but he must surely do so on Sunday. Our favourite Swedish person is correct in saying that he is perfect for “a tough breakaway on a stage where brute force and smarts can overcome your lack of top climbing or superb finishing speed” and maybe this is the stage he will choose. Other than him, the host nation may look to Benoit Cosnefroy to make a move: relying on Bardet does not look like a winning strategy for AG2R so sending guys in the breakaway is a must. The Col de Chevrères proved too much for Cosnefroy but these punchier climbs may be much more up his alley.
Outside of that Max Schachmann may finally show himself — he’s been pretty invisible so far this Tour despite being the subject of more than a few predictions of success. He dropped off the peloton towards the end of stage eight but that could be saving the legs just as much as it could be a sign that form is lacking.
Then, there’s also the chance that once again the sprinters will prevail — Sagan and Matthews came close on stage eight and it may have whetted their appetites for this. While I picked they would succeed on stage five, I think these roads will be less suited to them, especially with their teammates having chased yesterday to no avail. My pick for the day then is Schachmann to spoil the French party.
Alaphilippe of course regained yellow and he won’t be about to given it away in a hurry so that should stay on his shoulders until the time-trial. Sagan will keep green till Paris, nobody within striking distance of Wellens is likely to go for polkadots and Ciccone should roll in with the peloton without issue to keep white.