The stage began as an attack fest as riders desperate to take the spotlight away from the GC contenders punished themselves and others. There were several break attempts before an eleven-man break stuck.
The eleven-man break was whittled down to four--Damiano Cunego (LAM), Luis Leon Sanchez (GCE), Sandy Casar (FDJ) and Anthony Charteau (BTL)--by the summit of the 25.5 km Col de la Madeleine which would be the bulk of the finishing bunch. Somewhere behind the leading four, Frenchman Christophe Moreau (GCE), riding his 15th Tour de France as the oldest rider in the peloton at 39, crossed the summit of the Col.
Alberto Contador of Spain, left, and Stuart O'Grady of Australia, second left, speed down Colombiere pass during the 9th stage of the Tour de France.
AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski
Behind Moreau, Andy Shcleck and Alberto Contador tested each other as they rode away from the group of leaders. Schleck attacked multiple times and Contador answered each attack in step. The two made a deal to ride together to the finish. As the pair glided up the slopes, Jens Voigt (SAX) fell back from the break and found himself with the pair. Voigt gave his all for Schleck leaving every ounce of energy on the slopes for his teammate. Eventually, Voigt would crack and fall in with the peloton.
Schleck and Contador crested the Col with just over a two-minute disadvantage, which would be whittled away to nothing within the final kilometer of the stage.
Meanwhile, Evans popped and was dropped from the group of GC contenders. Evans would concede time and the yellow jersey to Schleck before even reaching the summit of the Col.
The Fiery Sprint Finish
On the descent, taking chances yet working together, Schleck and Contador caught Christophe Moreau, and the chased ensured. With a teammate in the front break, Moreau would sit in with the two and allow them to do all of the work. Within sight of the small group, Samuel Sanchex of Euskatel-Euskadi would make an attempt to bridge. His attempt would fail, but he would round out the top 8 on the stage with his heroic descent into "La Chambre" or "The Bedroom" below the Col de la Madeleine.
In spite of having to do all of the work at the front, Conatdor and Schleck with Moreau in tow caught the break within the final kilometer to give spectators an amazing sprint finish of seven.
While Damiano Cunego was favored to win the sprint, he was not savvy enough on the final corner and Frenchman Sandy Casar (FDJ) outsmarted the group to take the win.
"I really wanted that so much, no one was going to beat me."
Schleck's Yellow Fever Antidote: The Jersey
Wednesday Andy Schleck will wear the yellow jersey for the first time. And he has only Contador to worry about.
"We're both at about the same level, although now I have a lead of 41secs," said Schleck, who won the stage to Morzine-Avoriaz on Sunday to close to within 20 seconds of Evans.
"It's now up to him (Contador) to attack in the Pyrenees."
Contador has fewer riders to worry about as Lance Armstrong, Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso (LIQ), Denis Mechov (RAB) and Brit Bradley Wiggins (SKY) are all but out of the race.
"I know what my aim is now, and which wheel I have to follow--Andy Schleck's. I think he's the most dangerous," said the Spaniard, who up until now has been largely unchallenged on the race's tough climbs.
"It was a really epic stage, and the very hard climb to the Madeleine left a lot of people struggling."
An exasperated Evans crossed the line realizing his current situation was grim.
"I'm not at my normal level, but when you're in the yellow jersey at the Tour whether you're good or not you have to be there," said Evans who broke down in tears at the end of the stage. "I haven't seen the results yet but I'm pretty sure it's over for this year."
Evans will find himself in 18th place in the General Classification this evening, 7:47 behind Schleck.
The Polka Dots Change Hands
For the first time in the 2010 Tour de France, the climber's polka dot jersey will change hands. Anthony Charteau (BTL) won the summit on the Col de la Madeleine, taking the polka dot jersey from Jerome Pineau (QST). Although Pineau and Charteau have the same number of points, the rider with the win on the highest classification takes the highest rank. The Col de la Madeleine was the first HC, or Hors Categors (outside or above category) climb in this year's Tour which presents double points for the climber's classification giving Charteau the advantage and the jersey. Although the jersey has changed hands it has not changed nationalities, as both Pineau and Charteau are French.
Stage 9 Results
- Sandy Casar (FDJ) - 05:38:10
- Luis-Leon Sanchez (GCE) +00:00
- Damiano Cunego (LAM) +00:10
- Christophe Moreau (GCE) +00:02
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) +00:02
- Alberto Contador (AST) +00:02
- Andy Schleck (SAX) 43:35:41
- Alberto Contador (AST) +00:41
- Samuel Sanchez (EUS) +02:45
- Denis Menchov (RAB) +02:58
- Jurgen Van Den Broeck (OLO) +03:31
- Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +03:59
Other U.S. Riders
25. Christopher Horner (RSH) +11:06
31. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +15:54
84. George Hincapie (BMC) +01:02:37
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 124 Points
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 114 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 105 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Anthony Charteau (BBO) - 85 Points
- Jerome Pineau (QST) - 85 Points
- Christophe Moreau (GCE) - 62 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 43:35:41
- Robert Gesink (RAB) +04:22
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +05:11
Complete Standings on LeTour.fr
204.5K (127.1 miles) - Tuesday July 13
- Morzine-Avoriaz has played host to the tour 23 times, this is the 24th
- This is the primary mountain stage
- Sprint Points at: Cluses, La Bathie
- Mountain Passes: Cote de Chatillon located at 18.5 kilometers - 2.1km climb to 3.9 percent grade - Category 4; Col de la Colombiere at 46 kilometers - 16.5km climb to 6.7 percent - Cat. 1; Col des Aravis at 71 kilometers - 7.6km climb to 5.9 percent - Cat. 2; Col des Saisies at 97 kilometers - 14.4km climb to 5.1 percent - Cat. 1; Col de la Madeleine at 172.5 kilometers - 25.5km climb to 6.2 percent - Category H
Image courtesy of www.letour.com
Image courtesy of www.letour.com