Tour de France Stage 9

Another flat stage, another 3 man break-away caught with a few km to go, and another bunch sprint. All as everybody predicted. The surprise for me was Oscar Freire winning his second sprint of the Tour. Robbie McEwan was about 5cm behind in second. Robbie made an amazing cut as he was boxed in behind Boonen and Zabel on the right side of the road, and suddenly zipped over behind 5 riders, and attempted to come around Freire. In spite of the extra distance he had to do to make that zip, he nearly made it too. Aging former sprint star Eric Zabel spoiled Tom Boonen’s day by coming in third just ahead of Boonen, so Boonen ended up getting 6 fewer points than McEwan rather than 4.

McEwan’s lead on the green jersey competition is now 23 points. We’ve got a couple of days of mountains now, so he’ll get to sit at the back of the race in the “sprinters bus”. The “sprinters bus” is a pack of riders whose only aim on the day is finishing before the cut-off time so they don’t get disqualified.

Tomorrow’s mountain stage has an HC climb, then a Cat 1, then mostly downhill for 40km to the finish. The climbs will probably break the peleton into chunks, with the main GC guys watching each other and a few opportunistic breaks going up the road (and the sprinters falling off the back). I wouldn’t be too surprised if the long down-hill means that the chunks will re-coalesce into bigger packs – maybe the lead couple of breaks will get away or maybe not, but you can bet that Landis, Gonchar, Hincapie, Salvodeli, Kloden and the rest of the GC contenders will finish together.