This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
A second – but very different – Pyrenean stage. Whereas all the climbing the day before was packed into the final few kilometres, this is more of a classic Pyrenean day, featuring five substantial passes.
The action begins on the Portet d'Aspet, where a break is almost certain to form and then cement its advantage as it heads on to the Col de Menté. Between the descent off this pass and the start of the next, there's a short section in the valley before the riders embark on a 60km rollercoaster up and down the Peyresourde, Val Louron and the Hourquette d'Ancizan, another of the '21st-century climbs', first included in 2011.
On that occasion, Jérémy Roy went away on his own on the descent and it's not implausible that one of the main contenders might fancy their chances of emulating him on the long drop down.
A tricky stage for the GC riders but it would be no surprise to see Sky take control and ensure all of the star names finish together with much tougher mountain stages still to come.
Stephen Roche: "I don't like to see riders waiting for the last climb to attack, it makes racing monotonous. But this stage offers terrain where someone could blow the race apart from a long way out. These aren't the toughest climbs, which might encourage more attacks, but I'm not holding my breath."
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If you can recall that the last rider to win a stage into Bagnères-de-Bigorre was Vladimir Efimkin, you're one up on the Procycling staff. Riccardo Riccò won the 2008 stage into the spa town where Tour winner Laurent Fignon owned a hotel – but Efimkin was handed the victory when 'The Cobra' tested positive.
Stage 9 map
Stage 9 profile