By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians




Tour de France Champions Living and Dead






CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '08

Stage 9 - (Sunday) July 13th, Tourlouse to Bagnères de Bigorre, 224 km Mt. Stage

Let the Racing Begin!

The race route from Toulouse heads South East until it hits the Pyrenean foothills at the Category 4 Col de Buret . This modest little climb drops down briefly before the road heads up again to ascend the Category 3 Col des Ares . At the base of this climb about 15 km of valley road head straight for the mighty Category 1 Col de Peyresourde . Over the top the field plunges down to the valley and then immediately hit the Category 1 Col d'Aspin . Both these climbs include about 12 km each of very serious climbing work. From the top of the Col d'Aspin the road plunges down for 26 km straight into the finish in Bagnères de Bigorre.

For many fans this is where the real racing begins. For the riders this is where they find out if they have “Tour legs” or not. The Tour may not be won today but any GC contenders unable to stay with the leaders will probably say farewell to their 2008 aspirations.

A Flatlander's Bid for Polka Dot

The breakaway of the day went clear at the 32 km mark of the stage . Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) and Nicolas Jalabert (Agritubel) worked well together and opened a maximum lead of 14'20”. None of the breakaway riders were danger men to the Yellow Jersey, but Gerolsteiner's Sebastian Lang was a danger to David de la Fuente's Polka Dot Jersey.

Mathematically Lang could take the climber's jersey IF he wins all the climbs of stage 9 (four category 4, one category 3 and two category 1). He would have a total of 46 points to De la Fuente started the stage with 34 points. It may be a long shot but time trial specialist Lang put forth a solid bid for the Polka Dot Jersey.

Nasty Crash of a Contender

Shortly after the feed zone Euskaltel's Gorka Verdugo crashed taking overall contender Cadel Evans down very heavily. The entire Silence-Lotto team paced Evans back the peloton.

With scraped and a torn uniform Evans had a long visit to the Tour doctor's car. His smooth pedalling style indicated the wounds were superficial.

Contender Cadel Evans visits the doctor after a nasty crash [ Images ©: ]

Col de Peyresourde

First used in 1910 the Col de Peyresourde was part of the first ever Circle of Death. This category 1 climb has an average gradient of 7.1% with a maximum of 8.5% near the summit.

The orange clad Euskaltel-Euskadi set a fast tempo as the climbers moved to the front. The pace split the peloton and dropped yesterday's sprint heroes. Gruesomely the TV cameras watch from the back of the peloton showing riders slowly lose contact with the back. The auto-bus of the day was forming.

Over the summit Lang rode solo to take the first place points and continue his bid for Polka Dot. From the peloton De la Fuente attacked to take fourth place points. The Spanish climber's great effort m athematically made Lang's bid for the Polka Dot Jersey a bit harder.

Explosion on the Col d'Aspin

At the bottom of the Aspin, Lang maintained a lead of 2'20" ahead of Kuschynski, 4'25" ahead of a chase group of Jalabert, Max Montfort, Luis Leon Sanchez and De La Fuente, and 5'55" ahead of the peloton.

Aggressively all hell broke loose on the climb. Riccardo Ricco was the first to attack and put the peloton in difficulty. Oscar Pereiro and Leonardo Piepoli caught Ricco to keep the pressure on the peloton. The vigilant contender closed to the escapees.

One by one non contenders flew off the front. Not to be denied Ricco attacked again. Carrying great speed the Saunier-Duval rider exploded rapidly past all the breakaways.

With 1 km to the summit of the Aspin Ricco passed a fading Lang. Over the summit Ricco claimed the 30 climbing points and started his plunge down the Aspin to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

Valiantly Lang scored second place, but his bid for Polka Dot ended when De la Fuente sprinted to fourth points.

Real Racing

A 26 km plunge into the finish in Bagneres-de-Bigorre gave Ricco a great chance for his second stage win. Behind the contenders let it all hang out trying the catch the flying Italian.

Huge road side crowds cheered wildly for Ricco's effort. The hard charging peloton was not closing the gap quickly enough. Ricco passed under the 1 km to go banner with more than a minute lead. The stage win was his.

Arms to the sky, Ricco celebrated and crossed the finish line for an aggressive stage win.

Stage winner Riccardo Ricco [ Images ©: ]

The real racing of this year's Tour has kept fans riveted through the first 9 stages. Tomorrow the "Circle of Death" (the hardest day in the Pyrenees Mountains).


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Tour de France 08 (Click to enlarge)


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