There has been a slight reshuffle in the top order of the general classification but not as much as we can expect tomorrow. Still, it is a day of celebration for Riccardo Ricco who has won his second Tour de France stage in four days.
The top 10 in the stage from Toulouse to Bagneres-de-Bigorre is:
1. Riccardo Ricco (ITA) SDV - 224km in 5h39’28"
2. Vladimir Efimkin (RUS) ALM - at 1’04"
3. Cyril Dessel (FRA) ALM at 1’17"
4. Dmitriy Fofonov (KAZ) C.A at 1’17"
5. Christian Knees (GER) MRM at 1’17"
6. Maxime Montfort (BEL) COF at 1’17"
7. Alejandro Valverde (ESP) GCE at 1’17"
8. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 1’17"
9. Damiano Cunego (ITA) LAM at 1’17"
10. Yarsoslav Popovych (UKR) SIL at 1’17"
There were about 35 riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton that finished 1’17" behind Riccardo Ricco.
Riccardo Ricco has won his second Tour stage in four days. The winner of stage six has beaten Vladimir Efimkin by 1’03".
Riccardo Ricco has raced under the ’flamme rouge’ and is about to begin his victory celebrations. He has a lead of 1’00" on Vladimir Efimkin and is moving up the rankings in the mountains classification but for now, he’s going to enjoy his second victory in four days.
Efimkin is 1’00" behind the stage leader and 10" ahead of the peloton.
Ricco is less than 3km from what appears sure to be his second victory in the Tour de France. It will be his 20th victory as a professional and it comes in his second attempt at the Tour.
With 5km to go, Efimkin is 1’10" behind Ricco and 5" ahead of the peloton. The Schumacher group is 2’20" behind the stage leader and likely winner in Bagnere-de-Bigorre.
Sebastian Lang has been voted the most aggressive rider in the ninth stage. He was caught by Ricco 1km from the top of the Col d’Aspin and spent 186km at the front of the stage.
Ricco is now 1’15" ahead of Efimkin who is just ahead of the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Efimkin is now on his own in second place. He was too strong for Casar and Astarloza. The Russian is now 1’15" behind Ricco.
Ricco is in Campan with 8km to go in the 224km stage. He leads Astarloza, Efimkin and Casar who have recently attacked the peloton.
Ricco’s lead over the yellow jersey group is 1’25". There has been an attack from Casar and an Euskaltel rider at the front of the peloton. They are being chased by Efimkin (ALM)...
Ricco is 1’22" ahead of the peloton with 10km to go. There is a rider from Rabobank at the head of the pack, Joost Posthuma, followed by two from Liquigas. They are 1’03" ahead of Schumacher.
There are about 35 riders in the yellow jersey’s peloton. All the riders from the top 10 are represented except Schumacher who is 1’00" behind Kirchen’s group.
As the peloton raced under the 15km to go banner, it was 1’30" behind Ricco.
Lang and Nibali have been caught 17km from the finish by the yellow jersey’s peloton. Only Ricco remains ahead and his advantage is around 1’15".
With 20km to go, Ricco is 1’00" ahead of Lang who has been caught by Nibali (LIQ). The yellow jersey’s peloton is at 1’15".
Ricco is 20km from the finish. His advantage on the peloton is 1’10".
David De La Fuente will race another day as the leader of the King of the Mountains competition.
1. Riccardo Ricco (SDV) 30pts
2. Sebastian Lang (GST) 26pts - at 35"
3. Bernard Kohl (GST) 22pts - at 1’15"
4. David De La Fuente (SDV) 18
5. Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ) 16pts
6. Oscar Pereiro (GCE) 14pts
7. Denis Menchov (RAB) 12pts
8. Luis Sanchez (GCE) 10pts
Ricco has reached the top of the Col d’Apsin. He’s now got 26km to go to the finish in Bagneres-de-Bigorre.
Riccardo Ricco is going to claim 30 points at the top of the Col d’Aspin. He has won both the climbs that feature double points and it could mean that he’ll overtake his team-mate as leader of the mountains classification at the end of the stage.
Ricco has caught Lang. They didn’t ride together for a moment: the Italian just races straight past the German. Ricco now has 1km to climb.
The rider ranked third overall at the start of the stage, Schumacher, has been dropped by the yellow jersey’s peloton.
The yellow jersey’s group is 1’40" behind Lang with 2km to climb.
Lang knows that he’s about to be caught: he’s looking behind to see if he can spy Mr Ricco who is now 35" behind.
With 3km to climb, Lang leads Ricco by 1’20", Montfort by 1’40" and the peloton by 2’10".
Ricco is 3km from the summit of the Aspin climb with a deficit of 1’20" to Lang. Maxime Montfort is 1’40" behind the stage leader.
There has been no reaction to the attack by Ricco from the yellow jersey’s peloton which is now being led by three riders from the Caisse d’Epargne team and is composed of about 30 riders.
Ricco is 2’00" behind Lang with 4km to climb. He has dropped Montfort and Sanchez.
Ricco has caught two earlier attackers, Sanchez and Montfort. They are now 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the stage, 2’20" behind Lang.
Ricco has attacked at the time that De La Fuente was caught.
De La Fuente has been dropped by his former escape companions. He’s now waiting for the peloton.
Lang is holding on to an advantage. He began his attack at the 22km mark. With 31km to go in the stage (5km to climb) he is 3’50" ahead of the yellow jersey’s group.
Kirchen is losing support fast. There has been a flurry of attacks - the latest from an AG2R rider - and it’s thinned out the main group. The yellow jersey appears comfortable and, for the moment, all others in the top 10 of general classification are present in the yellow jersey’s group.
Kreuziger is the latest rider to attack the yellow jersey’s peloton.
The attack by Pereiro has calmed down the Saunier Duval pair who are now back in the yellow jersey’s peloton.
Piepoli is now trying to make the attack of Ricco work. It has done nothing but annoy Peirero who has now attacked the yellow jersey’s peloton and put distance into Ricco and Piepoli.
Ricco is now on the move at the front of the peloton. He has the support of Piepoli and the Saunier Duval pair are being followed by Kohl (GST).
Ricco has responded to the move by Schumacher. He is now on the attack at the head of the peloton.
Schumacher has attacked the peloton. He is being chased by Piepoli and Gonzalo.
Jalabert was ahead of the peloton from the 22km mark until the 186km mark. He is now back in the bunch and, judging by the way he was caught, he’ll soon be dropped.
The bunch is being led by Egoi Martinez of the Euskaltel team. Tucked in behind him is Schumacher and Kohl of the Gerolsteiner team.
Jalabert is unable to follow the pace that’s being set by Montfort. He is now on his own and on his way back to the peloton.
At the bottom of the climb, Lang was 2’20" ahead of Kuschynski, 4’25" ahead of Jalabert, Montfort, Sanchez and De La Fuente, and 5’55" ahead of the peloton.
Another bout of climbing action is about to begin. Lang leads Kuschynski by 2’50" at the bottom of the Col d’Aspin.
Lang is determined to make a big impression today. He has pushed his advantage to the four chasers - Sanchez, Jalabert, Montfort and De La Fuente - up to five minutes at the bottom of the Peyresourde descent. The peloton is at 5’50"
Sanchez has bridged the gap to De La Fuente and Montfort who have just caught Jalabert. There are now just two riders ahead of the four riders who escaped the peloton on the Peyresourde.
Lang is 2’00" ahead of Kuschynski. Then comes Jalabert who is being chased by three riders: De La Fuente, Montfort and Sanchez.
Luis Sanchez has attacked the peloton on the descent (again). The winner of the stage to Aurillac is proving to be the most fearless rider on the downhills. Despite the high speed of the bunch that is 5’35" behind Lang, the Spaniard has thrown caution to the wind and surged ahead.
There are 28.5km kilometers between the summit of the Peyresourde and Aspin climbs. The yellow jersey was nestled into the peloton that was 5’25" behind Lang. Also present were the rest of the riders in the top 10 overall after eight stages.
At the top, Lang’s advantage was 40" to Kuschynski, 3’40" to Jalabert, 4’50" to De La Fuente and Montfort, 5’25" to the peloton.
The points for the first category-one climb of the 2008 Tour were won by:
1. Sebastian Lang (GST) 15pts
2. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 13pts
3. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 11pts
4. David De La Fuente (SDV) 9pts
5. Maxime Montfort (COF) 8pts
6. Leon Sanchez (GCE) 7pts
7. Mikel Astarloza (EUS) 6pts
8. Matteo Carrara (QST) 5pts
Jalabert is third at the summit, 3’40" behind Lang.
Montfort and De La Fuente are about 25" ahead of the peloton with 1km to climb.
At the top of the climb, Kuschynski is 38" behind Lang.
Lang has just claimed 15 points for first place at the top of the Peyresourde climb. With 1km to climb he was 30" ahead of Kuschynski and 1’50" ahead of Jalabert.
Montfort and De Le Fuente have attacked the peloton. There has not been a big reaction from the bunch to the surge by the Cofidis and Saunier Duval riders.
The rider in the white jersey, Thomas Lovkvist lost a little ground to the yellow jersey’s peloton recently but he has just ridden back into the bunch that now includes about 50 riders and is 5’55" behind Lang.
Sebastian Lang has dropped his other escape companions and is now 2km from the top of the Peyresourde. His advantage over the peloton is 5’50".
The attack by Cardenas didn’t go far; he’s now back in the peloton.
"I know where I lost the Tour," said Cadel Evans after standing on the podium in Paris as the runner-up at the end of the 2007 race, "it was on the road from the col de Peyresourde to Loudenveille."
The Australian crested the 1,569m climb with the yellow jersey’s group and was in a good position but team tactics from Discovery Channel and Astana foiled his chances in the stage. Hincapie had been in an escape group and, on the descent of what was the final mountain of the stage, he waited for Contador and Rasmussen and then went into overdrive.
It caused a split in the peloton and that was exaggerated when Kloden missed a turn and his colleagues went faster in the front.
â€śIf Kloden didnâ€™t have Vinokourov up the road,â€ť said Evans on the day, â€śhe would have ridden. Instead he just rolled to the side of the road and I spent the rest of the stage chasing without any support. I lost almost a minute to Contador that day and could never make it up again.â€ť
The first attack in the peloton on the Peyresourde has come from Felix Cardenas. The Colombian Barloworld recruit has opened up a gap of about 100 meters on the peloton that continues to be led by riders from Euskaltel.
Kuschynski and Lang have just dropped Jalabert from the lead group.
The leaders are now 7km from the top of the Peyresourde climb. They have been on the attack for 138km, reached a maximum gain of 14’20" and are now 7’30" ahead.
The pace being tapped out by the Euskaltel team at the head of the peloton has claimed a few more victims. The latest riders to be dropped are O’Grady, Hansen and, perhaps even one of their own, Amets Txurruka.
The latest time check has the leading trio 7’50" ahead.
Maaskant, Steegmans, Brandt, Feillu, Trofimov, Arveson are some of the riders to recently be dropped by the peloton.
The FDJ surge didn’t last. Now the Euskaltel team is back in charge of the pacesetting duties at the head of the peloton.
The first riders to lose contact with the peloton are Eisel, Cavendish and McEwen.
At the base of the Peyresourde climb, the peloton was 9’10" behind Kuschynski, Jalabert and Lang.
There are two riders from FDJ now leading the peloton which is not yet at the base of the Peyresourde climb.
The Euskaltel team is now longer in complete command of the peloton. On the approach to the foot of the Peyresourde climb, Caisse d’Epargne, Liquigas and Quickstep are also putting themselves into position at the head of the main pack.
The first category-one climb of the 2008 Tour is the col de Peyresourde. This is a 13.2km climb with an average gradient of 7.1 percent. It rises to 1,569m and the steepest section is the cinal kilometer which has a gradient of 8.5 percent. The summit is at the 166.3km mark.
The two cols at the end of stage nine were part of the original climbing stage of the Tour de France when, in 1910, the raceâ€™s founder Henri Desgrange crafted a 326km course from Luchon to Bayonne. On 21 July 1910, the Tour raced over four passes: the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque.
Today is the 60th time that the col de Peyresourde has been a feature of a Tour stage.
The rider credit as being the first over the summit last year was the rider who finished fifth overall, Haimar Zubeldia of the Euskaltel team. The first man to crest the 1,569m high pass was actually Alexandre Vinokourov but the Kazahk has not been credited with first place because he was racing that day with someone elseâ€™s blood in his system.
Kim Kirchen was third over the Peyresourde climb in stage 15 of the 2007 Tour; he was followed by Cobo, Garate, Arroyo, Vande Velde and Kohl. All these riders are in the 2008 race.
The latest team leader to go to the back of the peloton is Carlos Sastre (CSC). Unlike Evans and Valverde, however, the Spaniard has not had the need to discuss anything with the Tour’s doctor. He is now being supported by one team-mate and returning into the throng.
Dr Gerard Porte has just told France Television that the wounds he has just dressed on Cadel Evans are not deep but the rider expressed his concern during a recent consultation. The Tour’s doctor believes that he might be hindered a little on the upcoming climbs but the injuries do not appear to be too nasty.
The crash has caused a bit of concern for Cadel Evans but he is now back in position near the head of the peloton.
It’s a day for consultations! Now Alejandro Valverde has also dropped back to see Dr Gerard Porte... it was a quick chat and now he’s back racing to the rear of the peloton.
Evans has the support of all his team-mates who are now towing him back through the peloton following a consultation with the race doctor.
Cadel Evans appears to have lost skin on his left elbow, leg and the doctor has just checked the collarbone. The Australian appears calm as he consults the race’s medical staff while Dario Cioni waits just ahead to help his team-mate back into the peloton after the consultation.
Cadel Evans has just comes to the back of the peloton. He is about to see the race doctor who will clean up some wounds on his left elbow and left thigh.
The Euskaltel team has been at the head of the peloton since the 55km mark. Two have just pulled over to the side of the road to answer the call of nature. The pace has been rapid as they attempt to reel in the escapees who attacked at the 22km mark and reached a maximum gain of 14’20".
McEwen has just dropped back to the race doctor. He was not caught up in the crash that involved his compatriot and team-mate but it seems that Robbie’s job is to play messenger between the Tour’s medical team and Cadel Evans.
After attacking early on the descent of the col des Ares, Dumoulin and Feillu opened a small gap on the peloton but they are about to be reeled in by the Euskaltel riders at the head of the main pack.
The escapees are now less than 90km from the finish. They are being chased by two counter-attacking riders - Roman Feillu (AGR) and Samuel Dumoulin (COF) - who escaped the peloton at the top of the col des Ares.
A Cofidis rider has attacked the peloton near the top of the fifth climb. He has taken the 1pt for fourth at the top of the Col des Ares (123.5km).
The points winners at this climb were:
1. Lang (GST) 4pts
2. Kuschynski (LIQ) 3pts
3. Jalabert (AGR) 2pts
4. Samuel Dumoulin (COF) 1pt - at 10’00"
Of the three riders in the lead of the stage, Lang has spent the most time in the wind in the past 10 minutes. He has been leading the break for 60 percent of the time since the top of the fifth climb.
Johan Vansummeren is one of the Silence-Lotto riders who waited for Evans who crashed at the 106km mark. The tall Belgian rider has just been seen near the head of the peloton which is likely to suggest that, not too far away, is his Australian team leader.
â€śCadel had a heavy fall, thatâ€™s what I know,â€ť said the directeur sportif of the Silence-Lotto team, Hendrik Redant. â€śHeâ€™s lost skin on his elbow and has torn his knicks and jersey but when he came past the team car, he didnâ€™t have anything to say. He appeared calm and weâ€™ll just get to the end of the stage and have a consultation with the teamâ€™s medical staff.â€ť
Lang has led Kuschynski and Jalabert over the top of the fifth climb. They are 10’50" ahead of the peloton.
1. Lang (GST) 4pts
2. Kuschynski (LIQ) 3pts
3. Jalabert (AGR) 2pts
We’ll post fourth place when the peloton arrives at the top.
The col des Ares is a six kilometer long ascent with an average gradient of 4.9 percent. Is rises to 792m and the summit is at the 123.5km mark.
The Euskaltel team continues to drive the peloton that is 11’00" behind at the top of the fourth climb of the ninth stage.
With Evans currently riding through the convoy of cars that follows the peloton, the Euskaltel riders are still setting a rapid tempo at the head of the bunch. It’s likely to lower the Australian’s opinion on the team of Samuel Sanchez, one of the riders who Evans said would be a threat in the general classification for the Tour this year.
Evans has also ripped open his knicks on his left leg. He has the support of all his team-mates on the approach to Sengouagenet at the 111km mark.
Cadel Evans is on his spare bike. He crashed and injured his left elbow. He has the support of five team-mates and is currently riding to rejoin the peloton that is being led by eight riders from Euskaltel who are insisting with a rapid tempo.
The crash happened near the head of the peloton and it caused the bunch to split momentarily. The rider ranked second overall, Cadel Evans was involved in the crash but is back on his bike and is back in the peloton.
There has been a crash in the peloton involving Christophe Brandt and Cadel Evans. The Australian is back on his bike and racing again but the Belgian remains on the side of the road waiting for a new bike.
The points for the fourth climb of the stage were won by:
1. Sebastian Lang (GST) 3pts
2. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 2pts
3. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 1pt
The winner of the stage to Le Grand Bornand in the 2007 Tour, Linus Gerdemann, is not in the race this year because he is still recovering from a nasty leg fracture sustained in a crash during the time trial of Tirreno-Adriatico in March. The German who led the 2007 Tour for a day is, however, back on the bike. He rode the col de Peyresourde yesterday despite pouring rain and cold temperatures.
He was in Lourdes last night and told LeTour.fr that he is recovering well from the injury. "I’m back on the bike and training well," said Gerdemann. "I even rode the climbs for stage nine in the rain and felt pretty good. But it was really cold! I was doing some interviews with German television and was happy to be there but when it got to six degrees, I started thinking that perhaps the home trainer would be a better option."
The points for the sprint in Sengouagnet (111km) were won by:
1. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 6pts
2. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 4pts
3. Sebastian Lang (GST) 2pts
At the 100km mark, the peloton is 11 minutes behind Lang, Jalabert and Kuschynski.
The head of the peloton is colored orange as all nine riders from the Euskaltel-Euskadi team take on the responsibility of reeling in the escapees. The Basque team has been at the front of the bunch since the 55km mark.
The points for the Cote de Mane were won by:
1. Sebastian Lang (GST) 4pts
2. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 3pts
3. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 2pts
The peloton has just reached the top of the cote de Mane at the 91km mark. It is 10’55" behind Jalabert, Kuschynski and Lang.
LeTour.fr recently contacted the directeur sportif of the Agritubel team to get his thoughts on the escape that involves Nicolas Jalabert. â€śThey are all well behind the three leaders on general classification,â€ť said Denis Leproux, â€śso we hope that the bunch will not chase too much. But apparently Euskaltel has decided to drive, so the situation is no longer as it was early in the day.
â€śWe have a little less than 140km to go in the stage, so itâ€™s a little early to say what will transpire. As itâ€™s a long stge today, itâ€™s possible that the Basques will soon get discouraged. Anyway, at the moment they are ahead and Iâ€™m sure the escapees will give it everything theyh have.â€ť
The average speed for the 2nd hour in stage nine is 40.9km/h. The average for the first two hours is 43.3km/h.
The peloton has just exited Roquefort at the 77km mark. It is 10’40" behind the three escapees.
â€śConsidering the fact that it rained a lot during the stage, the most important thing was to reach the finish avoiding the crashes," said the first yellow jersey of the 2008 Tour, Alejandro Valverde after the eighth stage. "Fortunately, everything went well for us. On the eve of the first stage in the Pyrenees, I am very happy with what I achieved until now. But not just me: the whole team Caisse dâ€™Epargne! Two stage wins: the one [for] Luis Leon Sanchez and mine...
"We will try not to lose time in the Pyrenees and arrive in the Alps in very good condition because I believe that they will decide who will be the final winner of the Grande Boucle. â€ť
The bunch is closing in on Kuschynski, Lang and Jalabert who are now 11’20" ahead after going on the attack at the 22km mark.
The maximum gain of the three escapees was 14’20". That has been reduced to 12’25" at the 64km mark thanks largely to the effort of the Euskaltel team which has taken responsibility for the chase at the head of the peloton.
The best result so far this year from Aleksandr Kuschynski - one of the riders in today’s escape (13’40" ahead of the peloton at the 57km mark) - is second place in the Belorussian national championships on 29 June. He won the title in 2005 but this year finished runner-up behind Yauheni Hutarovich who rides for the Francaise des Jeux team.
The Euskaltel team is at the head of the peloton now. It has upped the pace a little recently and the time gain of Lang’s trio has dropped from 14’20" to 14’10"... not much but the first drop since the move began at the 22km mark.
Sebastian Lang is yet to win a race in 2008 but he did finish third in a stage of the Criterium du Dauphine Libere in June this year. The 184km second stage was won by George Hincapie in a sprint ahead of Sylvain Chavanel and the German time trial specialist.
Although he began the ninth stage ranked 79th overall, Sebastian Lang is getting relatively close to becoming the virtual leader of the Tour. Well, roughly. He is 22’21" behind Kirchen but as part of an escape that is now 14’20" ahead of the peloton the Gerolsteiner rider is certainly moving up the rankings.
The peloton has just arrived at the top of the cote de St-Quitterie (at the 46km mark). Its deficit to the leading trio has blown out to 13’30".
Nicolas Jalabert is one of the three riders in the lead of the stage at the moment. He has not yet won a race in 2008, his 16th season as a pro. He did, however, finish second in the 207km fourth stage of Rud du Sud on 22 June. The stage began in St-Gaudens and concluded in Castres and it was one by Jussi Veikkenen of the FDJ team. It didn’t boost his ranking in the general classification as he finished 31st, 56 minutes 46 seconds behind Garmin-Chipotle’s Irish recruit Daniel Martin.
The peloton has just past the site where the leading trio took the first climbing points of the ninth stage. It was 9’50" behind at the 42km mark.
The points at the top of the cote de St-Quitterie (46km) were won by:
1. Sebastian Lang (GST) 3pts
2. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 2pt
3. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 1pt
The pace is fast for the start of the long stage to the Pyrenees. The average speed for the opening hour is 45.7km/h.
Kuschynski, Lang and Jalabert are 1km from the top of the second climb, the 1.5km long cote de St-Quitterie (at 46km).
At the 39.5km mark, the peloton was 7’30" behind the trio who escaped at the 22km mark.
At the cote de Saint-Pey (42km) the points for won by:
1. Sebastian Lang (GST) 3pts
2. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 2pts
3. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 1pt
The latest time check has Lang’s trio 6’30" ahead.
At the 37km mark, the peloton is 5’40" beind Kuschynski, Lang and Jalabert.
The leading three - Kuschynski, Jalabert and Lang - have not yet claimed a single point in the climbing classification. They have built a lead that should be sufficient for them to at least collect a few points on the low rises that are part of the first half of today’s long stage.
The peloton was 1’40" behind at the last time check. The advantage of the escapees is likely to grow soon as the yellow jersey and many others in the peloton are now answering the call of nature.
At the site of the intermediate sprint (29.5km), the peloton was 1’40" behind Lang’s trio.
The points for the first sprint were won by:
1. Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ) 6pts
2. Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) 4pts
3. Sebastian Lang (GST) 2pts
The leading trio are about to take the points of the first intermediate sprint. Their move began at the 22km mark. They are 1’20" ahead at the 27km mark.
Cofidis and Euskaltel are the teams which are leading the peloton.
The highest ranked in general classification of the three escapees in the breakaway today is Sebastian Lang of the Gerolsteiner team. He started the day in 79th position overall, 22’21" behind the aggregate time of Kirchen (THR).
There are three riders with an advantage of 40" on the peloton which has just passed the 24km mark. The men in the escape are: Aleksandr Kuschynski (LIQ), Nicolas Jalabert (AGR) and Sebastian Lang (GST).
The first of two intermediate sprints for stage nine is in St-Sulpice-sur-Leze. This is at the 29.5km mark.
The bunch is still all together as it passes the 23km mark of the 224km stage.
The Euskaltel rider who tried to break free of the bunch has been reeled in.
There has been an attack from one rider at the 17km mark. We await the name of the rider who is now trying to establish an escape.
The peloton is about to catch the six escapees at the 12km mark. The riders involved in the attack that started as soon as the flag fell to signal the start of stage nine were: David De La Fuente (SDV), Freddy Bichot (AGR), Stef Clement (BTL), Gianpaolo Cheula (BAR), David Moncoutie (COF) and Bjorn Schroder (MRM).
â€śIâ€™ve met my goal of keeping the mountains jersey,â€ť said David De La Fuente after the wet stage from Figeac to Toulouse yesterday. â€śThe early race was tough with so many attacks. I took off from behind in the first climb and rode past other riders to be the first [on the opening climb of the eighth stage]. The same thing happened in the second climb, but LefĂ¨vre had already broken clear,â€ť continued the rider who has a lead of seven points in the climbing classification.
â€ś[Stage nine] is different; thereâ€™ll be two main mountain passes and the race will be long. Itâ€™ll be an important day for the KOM classification, with two category-one climbs plus four other ascents.
â€śOf course, my goal will be being part of the breakaways, for thereâ€™ll surely be one. My GC time isnâ€™t very good, and this could help me for a place ahead, but then everyone’ll try to be in the breakaway.â€ť
The six escapees are still on the attack. The peloton is still in pursuit and the advantage hasn’t grown beyond 30 seconds yet. They have covered 6.5km so far today. Dario Cioni (SIL) has just punctured.
There was a plethora of punctures in the wet stage yesterday. The theme continues early today with the latest rider to get a flat tire, Perez of the Euskaltel team.
The riders who attacked in the first kilometer are: David De La Fuente (SDV), Freddy Bichot (AGR), Stef Clement (BTL), Gianpaolo Cheula (BAR), David Moncoutie (COF) and Bjorn Schroder (MRM).
The stage has started with a bout of attacking action. There are six riders in the lead and Euskaltel is at the head of the peloton.
The official start of the ninth stage was at 11.20am. There are 170 riders still in the Tour de France.
Thomas Lovkvist (THR) leads the youth classification with an advantage of 37 seconds over CSCâ€™s Andy Schleck. The rider from Luxembourg has won the young rider jersey in a Grand Tour before (the Giro dâ€™Italia 2007) and is expected to perform well in todayâ€™s 224km stage. But the Columbia team manager, Bob Stapleton, has said that itâ€™s an objective for Lovkvist to hold the white jersey as long as possible.
Maxime Montfort (COF) is third in the category open to riders born after 1 January 1983 (at 46 seconds) followed by two Liquigas riders â€“ Roman Kreuziger (at 59 seconds) and Vincenzo Nibali (at 1â€™40â€ť).
On the first two climbs of stage eight, the leader of the mountains classification (David De La Fuente of the Saunier Duval team) picked up first and second place, respectively. He increased his leading margin by six points and now has 34 in his collection. This is his second day in the polka-dot jersey in this yearâ€™s Tour. Itâ€™s a prize he hopes to hold as long as possible. Two Frenchmen who also wore the climberâ€™s prize in this yearâ€™s race â€“ Sylvain Chavanel (COF) and Thomas Voeckler (BTL) â€“ are ranked second and third with 27 points each.
There are seven categorized climbs in stage nine; the first four are ranked category-four (with 3,2 and 1 points for the first three at the summit), then come category-three (4, 3, 2 and 1 points for the first four). The first category-one cols of the 95th Tour are the final challenges for the stage from Toulouse to Bagnere-de-Bigorre. The Col de Peyresourde is at the 166.5km mark and the Col dâ€™Aspin is at 198km, the first carries 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points for the first eight over the summit.
Double points are on offer if the final climb is ranked category-two or more, which means that the first over the Aspin will collect 30 points.
The peloton is currently on its way to the site of the official start of stage nine. The conditions are dry in Toulouse but it’s cloudy early today.
Kim Kirchen lost his grip on the green jersey yesterday although he has the same tally of points as the new leader of the points classification, Oscar Freire (RAB). The Spaniard beat the Luxembourger in an intermediate sprint on Friday and thatâ€™s the reason he leads the classification that is meant to be for the sprint specialists. Both riders have 119 points after eight days of racing in the 2008 Tour.
Stage nine is the first road stage of the the 95th edition that has only two intermediate sprints. Tradition has it that the first week of the Tour has three primes where the first three riders over the line collect six, four and two points each. Once the race reaches the mountains, this is reduced to two sprints per stage.
Points in todayâ€™s stage will be awarded in Saint-Sulpice-sur-Leze (at 29.5km) and Sengouagnet (at 111km).
The winner of the green jersey in 2005, Thor Hushovd (C.A) is ranked third in this classification with 105 points.
Today is Kim Kirchenâ€™s fourth day in the lead of general classification. There was no change to the top order after the eighth stage from Figeac to Toulouse. The yellow jerseyâ€™s Columbia team has had an impressive start to this yearâ€™s Tour de France winning two stages (with Cavendish) and, after the first week, it leads both the general and youth classification.
â€śWhen you work hard, you get paid for it,â€ť said the Luxembourger yesterday. He leads Cadel Evans by six seconds in the race for overall honors. â€śThatâ€™s how itâ€™s been for the Columbia team in the first week of the Tour. I know the course for the next three days very well and itâ€™s maybe an advantage to have done a reconnaissance but you also have to have good legs to be able to perform well.â€ť
The former race leader, Stefan Schumacher is ranked third, 16â€ť shy of Kirchen while the leader of the Garmin-Chipotle team, Christian Vande Velde is fourth at 44 seconds.
There is 4.6km for the peloton to ride before it reaches the site of the official start. This is expected to be at around 11.20am.
The first stage of the 2008 Tour de France to include category-one climbs - the 224km journey from Toulouse to Bagnerre-de-Bigorre in the heart of the Pyrenees - is scheduled to start at 11.10am. The stage features seven climbs: four category-four, one category-three and then the Col de Peyresourde and Col d’Aspin.
This the first stage with just two intermediate sprints. It’s a day for the climbers with the final challenges coming late in the stage. The 1,569m high Peyresourde climb peaks at the 166.5km mark while the top of the 1,489m Aspin pass is at the 198km mark, 26km from the finish.
The weather is fine and the torrential rain that fell in the Hautes-Pyrenees last night appears to have gone. The forecast is for mild temperatures and overcast conditions with the chance of showers.
Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.