I think today’s stage will hurt, even if you are Chris Froome.
Seven classified climbs on the days stage mean a couple of things.
The first, being that there will most likely be a large break of riders who will intend to show the early signs of contending for the King of the Mountains jersey.
Second, the general classification favourites will strategically place key teammates in the move to help later on.
With not many pure summit finishes in the Tour this year, stages like this become immensely important in attempting to break the backs of both Sky, and their leader Chris Froome. The 182 kilometres of Stage 9 could therefore provide some fabulous racing.
The riders will be climbing straight for the gun, with two classified climbs coming inside the first 11 kilometres on the stage.
The second category climb of the Cote des Neyrolles (3.2 km at 7.2 per cent, with a max gradient of 23 per cent) and the category three climb of the Col de Berentin (4.1 kilometres at 6 per cent) will shed some light into what is to come on today’s stage.
The riders then descend for just over 20 kilometres before starting the third climb of the day, the category three climb of the Cote de Franclens, which averages out at six per cent for 2.4 kilometres.
An easy descent then sets the riders up for two consecutive hors category climbs. The first of those climbs being the Col de la Binche.
At 10.5 kilometres at nine per cent, the riders will be in the hurt locker already, with the sprinters potentially being along way back already on the stage.
It is then a technical descent that the riders have to face, before they hit the hors category climb of the Grand Colombier, which is slightly shorter than the previous climb at 8.5 kilometres, however is steeper at 9.9 per cent, with sections above 18 per cent.
The riders then get some respite with 40 kilometres of either descent or flat valley roads. During these 40 kilometres, the intermediate sprint will occur in the town of Massignieu-de-Rives after 126.5 kilometres of racing.
A few kilometres after this point, the penultimate climb of the stage starts, with the riders scaling the fourth category climb of the Cote de Jongieux, which is four kilometres long at 4.2 per cent.
At the end of this climb, the riders should be able to spot on the horizon the main challenge on today’s route, the final climb of the Mont du Chat. This climb was used at the Criterium du Dauphine, and witnessed three key general classification favourites dominate.
Froome, Porte and Aru put on a fabulous show on this climb at the Dauphine, with support from Aru’s Astana teammate, Jakub Fuglsang, who ended up outsprinting Richie Porte for stage honours.
The climb is one of the toughest that the riders will face over the three weeks, with the climb averaging over ten per cent for nearly nine kilometres.
The descent off the climb is flowing, but still quite technical and will be the final sting in the tail to a hellish stage.
From the top of the climb, 25 kilometres is still to be completed, with 13 of those being the descent off the climb.
It is annoying that the stage does not finish immediately after the descent, with the final 12 kilometres of the stage along flat roads potentially holding back some of the general classification contenders on attacking on the final climb.
However, if the race goes anything like yesterdays, then the race will be all over the place before the final ascent.
As I mentioned earlier, Aru was superb on the Mont du Chat three weeks ago in the Dauphine, and looked incredible on La Planche Des Belle Felles, so I expect attacks on the final climb from him.
How Porte will ride the stage is anybody’s guess. It may very well depend how early in the stage he is isolated.
I expect the teams of the general classification favourites to attempt to get riders into the breakaway, giving them a tactical advantage in the final.
The only prediction I will make with any certainty is this, the riders will be loving the fact that they have a rest day on Monday.