2009 Tour de France Stage Preview
Jul. 4, 2009
STAGE 1: Monaco ITT (15.5km)
Due to the longer distance, there is no prologue this year. “The Lap” around France starts off with an ITT stage (also referred to as “the race of truth”, as winning depends only on each rider’s strength, endurance and determination against the clock). Riders face a significant challenge in the stage 1 individual time trial over the roads of the French Riviera’s independent city/state of Monaco. The short, hilly stage follows a clockwise route from its start-finish near the Monaco Harbor, climbing past the Monte Carlo Casino and into French territory along the Moyenne Corniche. The route climbs 200 meters over seven kilometers to the stage’s high point at the Category 4 climb of Côte de Beausoleil on the scenic highway that parallels the Mediterranean Sea before descending over switchbacks toward a fast run-in to the finish.
Armstrong and his teammates could sweep the podium, but Fabian Cancellara and Michael Rogers will certainly be in the mix.
Jul. 5, 2009
STAGE 2: Monaco—Brignoles (187km)
Historically, the first week of the tour is focused on getting the riders in a rhythm of what is to come over the coming days. In this year’s edition, we follow the tradition. Stage two continues along the Mediterranean coast with a hilly route that includes many of the climbs seen in the early season Paris-Nice and Tour Mediterranean stage races. Riders face four categorized climbs along the Côte d’Azur before the mostly flat finish in Brignoles. Speeds should be high and the climbs should not prove decisive over this route.
Green jersey candidates Mark Cavendish and Thor Hushovd won’t be bothered by the hills on this stage, but…. watch out for brave moves by riders such as Jens Voght.
Jul. 6, 2009
Stage 3: Marseille-La Grande-Motte (196km)
The Mistral winds should greet the peloton on the flattest stage of the Tour, which travels through the town of Arles on the way to the finish in the beach resort of La Grande-Motte. The peloton will most likely face scorching temperatures in the Midi region as the route circles the Rhône delta and crosses the Camargue marshlands en route to a wide finish straightaway that favors the strong leadout trains of the top sprinters.
The long, flat finish should suit Team Columbia’s Mark Cavendish.
Jul. 7, 2009
STAGE 4: Montpellier TTT (39km)
The stage 4 team time trial starts in the center of Montpellier at Place de la Comédie, home to the fountain, The Three Graces, dedicated in 1790. The route leaves Montpellier after eight kilometers and enters the rolling terrain of the Languedoc wine country before returning to the city for a technical finale.
Look for Armstrong’s Astana or Cavendish’s Columbia to pull the win.
Jul. 8, 2009
STAGE 5: Le Cap d’Agde—Perpignan (196.5km)
The Tour continues along the Mediterranean coast, rolling over mostly flat roads toward the finish in Perpignan. The route takes a mid-stage detour into the hilly terrain of the Couriers region and over two fourth category climbs before the pancake flat run-in to the finish city, home of the Palace of the Kings of Majorca. A wide, straight finish will greet breakaway riders and the chasing sprinters’ teams.
As this is the last chance for a field sprint finish for almost a week, expect the teams of Mark Cavendish to reel in any breakaways. The best are on another Cavendish victory, but don’t dismiss Thor Hushovd or Danielle Bennati.
Jul. 9, 2009
STAGE 6: Girona—Barcelona (181.5km)
Girona is the home base for many American ‘s competing in Europe…home to favorites such as George Hincapie. Girona welcomes the Tour with the start of stage 6. Riders will face a transition stage between Girona and Barcelona that includes five categorized climbs. After leaving Girona, the route follows the Mediterranean coastline for approximately 60 kilometers before turning inland again toward the hilly terrain of Costa Brava. If a breakaway can stay away from the chasing peloton, they will return to the coast for the run-in to the uphill finish at Montjuich Park in Spain’s second largest city.
Kim Kirchen of Columbia is likely to punch it on the climb to the line.
Jul. 10, 2009
STAGE 7: Barcelona—Arcalis (224km)
The race sees both its longest stage and first mountain stage in its seventh day. Riders face five categorized climbs, culminating with this year’s first and highest mountaintop finish atop the hors-category climb to the Arcalis ski station. The mid-stage Category 1 climb of Col de Serra-Seca should separate the field, but with almost 100 kilometers to the finish, a large group should arrive at the base of the finishing climb. The climb to Arcalis is 10.6 kilometers in length with an average grade of seven percent over a wide, well-engineered road, an anomaly in the Pyrénéan mountains.
GC candidates like Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, Frank & Andy Schleck, and defending TdF champion Carlos Sastre will capitalize on the climb.
Jul. 11, 2009
STAGE 8: Andorre-la-Vieille—Saint-Girons (176.5km)
The second day in the Pyrénées covers three categorized climbs as the Tour returns to France for the finish in Saint-Girons. The stage begins with the Category 1 climb to Port d’Envalira, which should break the peloton apart over 23 kilometers of five percent slopes. The Category 2 climb to Col de Port and Category 1 climb to Col d’Agnès in the Ariège region of France should create more separation at the front of the race, although the 43 kilometer run-in to the finish following the final climb should see a group arrive in Saint-Girons for the town’s first-ever Tour stage finish.
This might be the stage for George Hincapie.
Jul. 12, 2009
STAGE 9: Saint-Gadens—Tarbes (160.5km)
The peloton faces two categorized climbs in the Tour’s final day in the Pyrénées – the perennial gauntlets of the Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet. The climbs come early on the day, however, and leave 62km to the first finish in Tarbes since 1951. With such a long run-in on the eve of the Tour’s first rest day, the stage could see a successful breakaway arrive in Tarbes ahead of a larger group of overall contenders.
Any sprinter who can stay within sight of the lead peloton over the Tourmalet and chase back on the descent has a chance.
Jul. 14, 2009
STAGE 10: Limoges—Issoudun (194.5km)
Following the first rest day, Bastille Day sees the race transition from the high peaks of the Pyrénées to the Limousin region of central France. Riders will face three Category 4 climbs early in the stage and the peloton should remain largely intact over the low rolling hills as the race moves northeast. French riders and teams will likely show a great deal of aggression on this national holiday; however, breakaway riders will find it difficult to stay away with the flat run-in to the first-ever Tour stage finish for the small town of Issoudun.
The chances are that this 193-km stage will end in a field sprint that favors Cavendish.
Jul. 15, 2009
STAGE 11: Vatan—Saint-Fargeau (192km)
The second of three mid-race sprinters’ stages, stage 11 continues through central France toward the awaiting Alps and features three intermediate sprints for green jersey points. The start and finish towns see their first exposure to the Tour on this relatively flat stage. The peloton should arrive in Saint-Fargeau, home of the chateau bearing its name, driven by the strong sprinters’ teams ahead of a flat finishing straight.
If it’s a relatively flat stage, the list must be topped by Mark Cavendish.
Jul. 16, 2009
STAGE 12: Tonnerre—Vittel (211.5km)
Riders face five categorized climbs and three intermediate sprints on stage 12, as the race reaches its most northerly point until the finish in Paris. Three tightly packed Category 4 and Category 3 climbs near the finish should shake up the end of the race, with the potential for a well-timed breakaway to reach the finish in the Olympic training grounds of Vittel.
Good day for attacks, but the sprinter’s teams will likely precisely control the end of the race for a dynamic sprint finish.
Jul. 17, 2009
STAGE 13: Vittel—Colmar (200km)arrows
The climbers awaken from a four-day respite as stage 13 features five categorized climbs and very little flat roadway. The stage includes the Tour’s first climb of the Category 1 Col du Platzerwasel from the north, which should create a significant selection in the peloton ahead of the Category 3 Col du Bannstein and the Category 1 Col du Firstplan, whose summit comes 20.5km before the finish in Colmar. With the Alps looming on the horizon, an opportunistic breakaway may find itself arriving first into the wine capital of the Alsace region.
With the mountains shedding the sprinters, the stage will go to the man who can climb and pack a strong sprint….Hint…LA!!
Jul. 18, 2009
STAGE 14: Colmar—Besancon (199km)
The Tour returns to the finish town of Besançon for the 17th time in this race through the rolling country of the Haut-Rhin and Franche-Comté regions of northeastern France. The sprinters’ teams should drive the steamrolling peloton to a bunch finish in the watch manufacturing capital of France.
If Mark Cavendish is still there in the final kilometers, the stage is his.
Jul. 19, 2009
STAGE 15: Pontarlier—Verbier (207km)
The climbers return to the sharp end of the race for their third act during the first of four Alpine mountain stages. The action ramps up slowly on the road to the Verbier ski station in the Swiss Alps as riders face four early Category 3 climbs and an intermediate sprint before the Category 2 climb to Col des Mosses. On the eve of the second rest day, the Category 1 climb to the mountaintop finish at Verbier should see some shake-out in the overall contenders in the Tour’s first Swiss mountain finish since 1984.
Oakley Favorites: “The Lux Brothers” (Frank & Andy Schleck)
REST DAY 2
Jul. 21, 2009
STAGE 16: Martigny—Bourg-Saint-Maurice (160km)
Two massive border climbs greet riders as the Tour leaves Switzerland on a tour of northwest Italy before returning to France for the finish in Bourg-Saint-Maurice. The climb to the Tour’s high point at Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard begins nearly from the start in Martigny and continues for almost 30km, rising more than 1,900 meters, with the closing 5km averaging 6.2 percent with pitches as high as 10 percent. Riders descend long and fast from the oldest passage through the western Alps into Italy to find two intermediate sprints en route to the Category 1 climb to Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard. The final 32km descends from the French/Italian border to the finish town, home to a premiere whitewater competition training center. The final general classification battle will be in full swing during stage 16 and the detour through Italy should see the true overall contenders in a bare fisted brawl.
Edvald Boassen Hagen could be the man with the finishing kick to deliver the win.
Jul. 22, 2009
STAGE 17: Bourg-Saint-Maurice—Le Grand-Bornand (169km)
A brutal five-climb day faces the peloton ahead of the final time trial in Annecy. Four Category 1 climbs – Cormet de Roselend, Col des Saisies, Col de Romme and Col de la Columbiere – await the riders on the road to the ski station at Le Grand-Bornand. With the Tour’s most densely packed climbing terrain and very little flatland, well-timed attacks may create significant time gaps in the third Alpine stage. The final two-tiered climb of the Romme and Columbiere should see the overall contenders firing all of their ammunition at their rivals.
Andy Schleck could capitalize on his superior climbing form and finish it with a strong kick to the finish.
Jul. 23, 2009
STAGE 18: Annecy TT (40km)
Riders face a technical, hilly and short individual time trial course that circumnavigates Lake Annecy in the Rhône-Alpes region in southeastern France. Four days from the finish in Paris and only 40km in length, the Annecy TT should not create huge changes in the overall classification. The course climbs the Category 3 Côte de Bluffy before descending toward Veyrier-du-Lac and the finish in Annecy, home of the oft-photographed Palais de l’Isle.
Fabian Cancellara is always the man to beat in any time trial, but this late in a stage race, Kim Kirchen could be right there. Or even the man himself…Lance Armstrong will do a clinic on how to TT and produce a win.
Jul. 24, 2009
STAGE 19: Bourgoin-Jallieu—Aubenas (178km)
A transition stage to the uncharacteristically late stage 20 battle on Mount Ventoux, the race to Aubenas features two early Category 4 climbs and two intermediate sprints before the final climb over the Category 2 Col de l’Escrinet. Overall contenders should see this stage as an opportunity to conserve between the final time trial and the penultimate stage on Mount Ventoux, creating an opportunity for an early breakaway to stay away to the finish beneath the Aubenas castle in the Ardèche region of southeastern France.
The LUX BROS. (Frank and Andy Schleck),
Jul. 25, 2009
STAGE 20: Montélimar—Mont Ventoux (178km)
In a first for the Tour, organizers have left the final, decisive mountain stage to the penultimate day ahead of the finish on the Champs-Élysées. The peloton leaves the capital of the nougat industry and rolls over four categorized climbs – three Category 3 and one Category 4 – most likely reaching the base of the hors-categorie climb at Mount Ventoux largely intact. The final battleground for the maillot jaune, the 21.6km climb to this year’s third mountaintop finish atop “The Bald Mountain” should see major fireworks as those trailing in the overall make a last ditch attempt to move up the classification. This monument of cycling has seen a Tour stage climb its 7.6 percent slopes seven times and a first-time winner will emerge on the storied summit on July 25.
Only a pure climber like Andy Schleck can triumph on a stage like this.
Jul. 26, 2009
STAGE 21: Montereau-Fault-Yonne—Paris Champs-Élysées (164km)
The bullet train delivers the race to the traditionally celebratory stage from Montereau-Fault-Yonne to Paris Champs-Élysées for the premiere sprinters’ showcase beneath the Arc de Triomphe. The peloton should roll at a leisurely pace en route to the French capital as the overall leader and others pose for photographs and sip champagne. After a ceremonial first lap on the Champs-Élysées, the pace should ratchet up as riders play for airtime in breakaways and the remaining sprinters’ teams vie for one of the most famed wins in cycling. The standings atop the final general classification will be decided ahead of the final stage and overall contenders will stay with teammates near the front of the race to avoid any trouble on the cobbled circuit.
If Mark Cavendish is still in the race, it will be hard to stop him, although Daniele Bennati and Thor Hushovd have both tasted success on this stage in years past.