2017 Tour de France: Stage 9 live race updates, blog

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    Despite not even hitting the first rest day, Stage 9 of the Tour de France has been labelled the hardest of the lot, and it’s not hard to see why with seven categorised climbs. Join The Roar for live updates and coverage from 8pm (AEST).

    This is going to be quite the stage, and after yesterday’s frantic pace, it could come down to who recovers best when the peloton reach the penultimate climb of the day at the Mont du Chat.

    While it’s not a summit finish for the day, seven climbs – three of them being ranked as outside categorisation – makes fo a gruelling day in the saddle.

    Starting out in Nantua, the race wastes no time in going uphill, and interestingly there was a nearly identical stage during the recent Criterium du Dauphine, which saw current yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome ride brilliantly alongside Richie Porte.

    The Category 2 Côte des Neyrolles and Category 3 Col de Bérentin are both summited within the first 11 kilometres, but besides ensuring it’s a difficult breakaway to make, they will only serve as warm-up climbs for the remainder of the day.

    The race then plateaus and descends before reaching the Category 3 Côte de Franclens, again nothing more than a lump on today’s profile.

    The serious stuff starts shortly afterwards though with the Col de la Biche, also known as the Croix de Famban being the first HC climb of the day.

    It’s 10.5 kilometres at nine per cent and with the steepness, could lay the platform for riders like Thibaut Pinot and Pierre Roland, who have already lost stacks of times to go on the offensive early.

    The worst bit about the Col de la Biche is that it doesn’t go straight back downhill, but rather goes slightly down, then back up for a short length of time before descending to the base of the Grand Colombier.

    The famous climb, checking in at 1501 metres above sea level is another 8.5 kilometres at 9.9 per cent and will test the peloton to hold any sort of rhythm, with the climb reaching a maximum gradient of 22 per cent.

    If the breakaway doesn’t have a lead by then, they should develop one as the race descends then goes into a 30-kilometre section of valley roads with only the intermediate sprint and a Category 4 climb to keep things interesting.

    The penultimate climb of the Mont du Chat then follows, summited about 26 kilometres from the finish line. It averages over 10 per cent for it’s 8.7 kilometres, but starts and finishes slightly below that mark, leaving the middle two kilometres averaging 14 and 15 per cent respectively.

    There’s no question that this is going to be one hellish stage. Team Sky controlled things as well as could have been expected yesterday, but it would have burnt a lot of energy out of the tank.

    If they can do the same over seven climbs today – three of them likely to be very aggressive due to their percentages and shortened lengths, they will have proven beyond all reasonable doubt they can take Froome to Paris.

    What’s likely to happen is that Froome will have to work for himself, and no one has any idea about how he will go doing that. Richie Porte was great on this stage at the Dauphine and appears to be in good touch, while Fabio Aru is also a man to watch.

    This is going to be a battle for Porte and Froome though, with Froome holding yellow, Porte moving up into second and a breakaway taking the stage win – watch for Pierre Roland, Thibaut Pinot and Lotto Soudal rider Jurgen Roelandts. You can never discount Thomas Voeckler on a day like today, either.

    Be sure to join The Roar for live coverage of Stage 9 at the Tour de France from 8pm (AEST) and don’t forget to add a comment below.

    One of the mainstays of The Roar, Scott Pryde has written over 1,100 articles covering everything from rugby league to basketball, from tennis to cricket. You can follow him on Twitter @sk_pryde.