Stage nine of Tour de France gets underwayJuly 12th, 2009 - 6:20 pm ICT by IANS
Saint-Gaudens, France, July 12 (DPA) The ninth stage of the 2009 Tour de France got underway Sunday in the Pyrenean city of Saint-Gaudens with Italian Rinaldo Nocentini still the surprise leader of the race.
The 160.5km course to Tarbes, the last of three stages in the Pyrenees Mountains, will take the 172 riders left in the race over two formidable climbs.
First they tackle the 12.3km ascent to the Col d’Aspin. With an average slope of 6.4 per cent, the climb is rated Category 1 in difficulty.
Less than 30km farther on comes one of the legendary climbs of the Tour de France, up to the Col du Tourmalet, a gruelling 17.1km at an average gradient of 7.4 per cent.
The Tourmalet, which has been climbed 76 times in previous Tours, is rated Beyond Category in difficulty, the highest rating. However, after the Tourmalet more than 70km remain in the stage, which diminishes its tactical importance for the outcome of the Tour.
It is likely that a breakaway group of riders who combine climbing ability and road-racing savvy, but with little chance of gaining the title, will use the stage to try and snatch a famous victory.
This was the case Saturday, when Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez outsprinted three other riders to win the eighth stage.
The 31-year-old Nocentini began the stage with a 6-second lead over Alberto Contador of Spain, with Contador’s Astana teammate, seven-time champ Lance Armstrong, another 2 seconds adrift.
Nocentini struggled Saturday on less testing climbs than he will face Sunday and was able to retain the race leader’s yellow jersey only because his team worked hard and because of Astana’s repeated declaration that it was not in their interest to take the race lead so early in the Tour.
The Tour ends July 26 in Paris.
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Tags: 1km, 5km, alberto contador, aspin, astana, breakaway group, eighth stage, lance armstrong, little chance, luis leon sanchez, ninth stage, previous tours, pyrenees mountains, race leader, rinaldo, saint gaudens, stage nine, surprise leader, time champ, tour de france