Monday, 9 July 2012

Tour de France 2012: Stage 9 Arc-et-Senans to Besançon

Yesterday we saw the first French winner of this year's Tour, he is also the youngest rider in the race. But before we got there it was full on from when the flag dropped for the official start of the stage. A group of 11 riders got up the road early on but there were too many dangerous names so Sky pegged that back pretty sharpish.

However, one man on a mission today early appeared to be Jen Voigt (RNT) but the mard man of so many Tours was eventually tagged back by a group of lesser names including Freddie Kessiakov (AST) who on the Côte de Saignelégier picked up his first Mountain points with 3 from going over the pass in second after setting off in pursuit of Jérémy Roy (FDJ). Before this however, there was a nasty crash involving the Olympic Road Race Champion Samuel Sanchez (EUS). Immediately as he was still sitting on the ground and the medic were looking at him I thought it looked like a broken collarbone. It appears that it will mean he is not able to defend his Olympic title as the Tour gets worse for Euskaltel-Euskadi who have now lost four of their team with Gorka Verdugo also withdrawing.

On the next climb up the Côte de Saulcy Kessiakov would leave Roy behind but the youngster of the Tour Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) with Christophe Kern (EUC) leading up the strongest of the 22 man breakaway that were left. Although it was enough of them that Peter Sagan (LIQ) wasn't going to pick up any of the points for the intermediate sprint only slightly further along the road.

On the penultimate climb up Côte de la Caquerelle Kessiakov may well have been thinking about the polka dot jersey he only needed 13 more points to take it. The pack chasing him was down to 8 men by the summit there were two men chasing him down Pinot and Tony Gallopin (RNT) leaving the rest behind. But the peleton are 3'25" behind Kessiakov.

The final climb of the Col de la Croix Pinot leaves Gallopin and went off in pursuit of Kessiakov. While behind an elite group of Wiggins & Froome (SKY), Evans (BMC), Nibali (LIQ) Schleck, Horner & Zubeldia (RNT), Menchov (KAT) and Van den Broeck (LOT) was forming and dropping the rest.

Pinot crossed the summit first 12 seconds ahead of the man who with 21 points today had done enough to wrest the Polka Dot jersey of Chris Froome who failed to add to his tally when the Group Malloit Jaune comes over 1'45" behind Pinot.

On the decent the group of nine GC contenders and team mates become an elite team pursuit off after the individual who passed through his home village the day before. They capture Gallopin who helps his three other team mates and later Kessiakov who cannot stay with them. As they enter Porrentruy FDJ-Big Mat team manager Marc Madiot is leaning out of the team car screaming "Allez! Allez!" to his young rider. Behind Van den Broeck makes an attempt to break at a tricky roundabout, and Evans tries to go with him to gain valuable seconds. But behind them leading the pursuit is a Olympic champion both individually and in the team wearing yellow, who succeeds in bridging the gap. Thibaut Pinot, who now is another new hope for a French champion, took the line 41 days after turning 22 and only 26 seconds after Evans who tried to make yet another break for the line only to have Wiggins continue to mark his every move.

Today it the race of truth, each man by himself against the clock and the last man out of the start house is one man who everyone knows can time trial.  Today it is 41.4km from Arc-et-Senans to Besançon. in 2009 as the race headed to Besançon for a flat race stage a female spectator was killed by a police motorbike. But in 2004 it was the setting for the penultimate stage time trail that saw Lance Armstrong assured of bettering Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and Indurain with his sixth Tour.

Wiggins has won the Individual Time Trial in Paris-Nice (9.6km), Critérium du Dauphiné (53.5km) and the mountainous one in the Tour de Romandie (16.24km) already this year. In the first two he was defending the Yellow Jersey in the latter it was the day he took it never to give it up. Three very different time trails during stage races this year and outside of prologues he has not been bettered.

Evans is also a good time triallist but is still likely to lose time to Wiggins in such a stage. It is an undulating and difficult time trial. The top 10 of the GC could very easily been shaken up as some of the climbers could lose time due to poor time trialling ability.

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