76km to go: The post-lunch gap goes back out to 1min 50sec, with Tosh van der Sande and Hugo Houle ploughing their lonely furrow.
81km to go: As the riders pass through the feed zone, the gap closes to a minute.
An email: “Mont Ventoux is in Provence, not the Alps, so no Alpine storm tomorrow,” writes pedantry’s Tony Hodgetts. “A procession for Pogacer tomorrow though, in the big chain ring, accelerating away from the whole peloton at will.”
92km to go: A little over halfway through today’s stage and after that brief flurry of activity, the bunch settles down ahead of the final business of the day. It’s almost certain to be a group sprint and with several high profile fastmen already klicking their heels at home, Mark Cavendish, Sonny Colbrelli, Nacer Bouhanni, Wout van Aert and possibly Peter Sagan will be among the favourites.
Intermediate sprint result
1. Van der Sande 20 pts
2. Houle 17 pts
3. Colbrelli 15 pts
4. Matthews 13 pts
5. Philipsen 11 pts
6. Sagan 10 pts
7. Ballerini 9 pts
8. Asgreen 8 pts
9. Sweeny 7 pts
10. Dillier 6 pts
11. Küng 5 pts
12. Oss 4 pts
13. Formolo 3 pts
14. Herrada 2 pts
15. Hirschi 1 pt
- Michael Matthews moves to within 25 points of Cavendish, with Sonny Colbrelli a further seven points behind.
106km to go: Cavendish doesn’t contest the intermediate sprint, clearly keeping his powder dry for a tilt at the stage win. Colbreli holds off Michael Matthews to be first from the main bunch over the line.
109km to go: The two breakaway riders pass under the banner for the intermediate sprint with a lead of 2min 25sec. Back in the peloton, Michael Matthews’ Bike Exchange teammates move to the front as they prepare another attempt to chip away at Mark Cavendish’s lead in the points category. Sonny Colbreli will also be contesting the maximum number of points left available.
110km to go: The gap remains at a steady 3min 45sec and there’s a crash at the back of the bunch. Danish sprinter Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) hits the asphalt quite hard but climbs back on his bike in pursuit of the peloton he just crashed out of. Julien Simon (Total Energies) also went down and his now drafting his way back to the bunch behind his team car.
Mark Cavendish speaks: Well, spoke … before the start of today’s stage.
“I’m tired, but I think everybody’s tired,” he said. “Like you said, it was a crazy first week. I think it was great to watch at home, but yeah … the show goes on, doesn’t it? I think it’s the same for everyone. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you go up the mountains, everybody gets some muscle damage, you know. It’s the nature of the game.
“It’s not the first time I’ve done the Tour de France, I know about it. It means on days like today, you have to pick and choose your sprint days, I guess. Obviously there’s less teams that want to control the bunch. I think more teams will take an opportunity for a breakaway. One man, even a rider like Tim Declercq, isn’t going to be able to control a massive group of riders if they get away. So that’s what we have to be careful of.”
Mission one accomplished – today’s breakaway is conprised of just two people.
124km to go: Our two leaders continue their descent of the Col de Couz, barreling along at 52 kilometres per hour.
131km to go: There is one King of the Mountains point available today at the top of the Category 4 Col de Couz and it’s snaffled by Hugo Houle.
139km to go: Pardon the analogy – I am well aware it’s Tuesday and all the riders are wearing Tour-sanctioned, cycling-appropriate Lycra.
141km to go: The two chaps in the breakaway are being kept on a fairly tight rein, their lead now down to 3min 39sec. They don’t look too bothered and are chatting away to each other on what continues to be a very relaxed day with a kind of casual, dress-down Friday feel about it.
143km to go: In the breakaway, Tosh van der Sande gets some running repairs, his team car pulling al;ongside him so a mechanic can lean out the back window and oil his chain.
150km to go: The gap is at 4min 29sec as nothing much continues to happen at great length on this transition stage. It’s the calm before tomorrow’s Alpine storm, when the riders have to tackle not one but two ascents of Mont Ventoux.
160km to go: The gap is stretched to 5min 10sec, with Tosh van der Sande (Lotto-Soudal) and Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech) making the pace for today.
Team Bike Exchange’s stage nine diary
The Australian team chronicle their efforts to get Michael Matthews closer to Mark Cavendish in the Green Jersey points classification on Sunday’s gruelling stage nine.
173km to go: There’s lots of chatting and joking going on in a very relaxed looking peloton as the two-man escape party stretch the gap to 4min 16sec.
185km to go: Lotto-Soudal rider Tosh van der Sande and Astana-Premier Tech’s Hugo Houle have opened a gap of 90 seconds on the bunch.
190km to go: The peloton leaves Albertville and is given the signal to race by race director Christian Prudhomme. Lotto Soudal warhorse and breakaway specialist Thomas De Gendt is front and centre of the bunch, having stated after stage eight that it took everything he had to stay in touch with the peloton.
““I rode one of my best ten-minute efforts ever at the start [of stage 8],” he told Sporza, in an interview picked up by Cycling Weekly. “ Those values have been recorded since 2013. Normally, with those values, I can ride the whole peloton to pieces. Here, I was 100 metres behind in a group of 70 riders – and I started from the front row. When you’re not in the peloton after that it’s clear that the general level is just much higher.”
Stage 10 has begun …
The roll-out is well under way and racing is due to begin in a couple of minutes.
Out of the race: A total of 12 riders who completed stage eight failed to start stage nine, started it but failed to complete it, finished outside the time limit or threw in the towel since it ended.
Primoz Roglic, Arnaud Demare, Mathiu van der Poel, Tim Merlier Nans Peters and Bryan Coquard are among the more high profile absentees from the start of stage 10 today. A total of 19 riders have withdrawn from the race for one reason or another since the race began, leaving a 157-strong peloton.
Stage 10: Albertville–Valence (190.7km)
William Fotheringham’s stage-by-stage guide: This might be more interesting than your average flat “transition” stage because there’s just enough climbing at key points to suggest that the sprint teams might not have it all their own way. If Sagan is feeling frisky he might try to burn off one or two of the heavier brethren, and if Ewan’s Lotto have lost riders who would normally work to control the stage [narrator’s voice: Ewan’s Lotto have lost Ewan], or if Deceuninck are marshalling Alaphilippe in the yellow jersey [narrator’s voice: they aren’t], the chances are a break will succeed with an opportunistic win for a rider like Thomas De Gendt or Søren Kragh Andersen.