Sunday, 13 July 2014
2014 Tour de France: Stage 9 six climbs in the Vosges – battle or picnic?
Stage 9: Gérardmer to Mulhouse 170 kms
Apart from the final 20 kilometres or so there isn't any flat in this second stage in the Vosges. It will be up and down for the riders all day tackling three Cat 3 hills, two Cat 2 and a Cat 1. The forecast is not good with more rain due after yesterday's downpour so the descents may well be tricky.
The general consensus is that the leaders will let a break get away and stay away, while the peloton will take it relatively easy in preparation for tomorrow's tough stage with its finish at the top of La Planche des Belles Filles. It is said that with the last climb – Le Markstein leading into Le Grand Ballon – coming 40 kilometres from the finish the favourites will decide that it will be difficult to make time gaps from the climb stick on the descent and run into Mulhouse. May be but of the 40 kilometres remaining from the top of the Grand Ballon 20 is a steep descent. The next ten looks to be a gentle descent into Pfastatt and then it is only the last ten that are really flat.
Le Markstein-Le Grand Ballon climb is 20 kilometres of uphill any substantial time gaps at the top of the Ballon could be difficult to get back so it may be in the interests of Nibali's rivals to give it a go today. Alberto Contador still has 2:34 seconds to claw back on Nibali.