2009 Tour de France Preview
The parcours of the 2009 Tour de France is definitely different.
The parcours of the 2009 Tour de France is definitely different. Observers often say that about the Tour's parcours, but for once, saying that La Grande Boucle's parcours is different is accurate. Several things will set the 2009 Tour apart from its recent predecessors. The first is the length of the race's two individual time trials. The two events will total 55 km. The time trial distance ridden will be the second shortest in the race's history; its shortness will give climbers a better-than-even chance of winning the race.
Second, the Tour will visit the second largest number of countries in the race's history. The riders will begin their odyssey in Monaco and will ride in France, Spain, Andorra, Switzerland, and Italy. Only the 1992 Tour, which visited seven countries, was more peripatetic than the 2009 Tour will be.
Third, in 2009, the Tour will feature a mountaintop finish on the race's penultimate stage for the first time. Mont Ventoux will be the last of three summit finishes in the 2009 Tour. The stage will be the last of 10 mountain stages in the race.
The race will begin in Monaco with a somewhat technical, hilly, 15.5-km time trial. The dash through the principality will provide an opportunity for a rider such as Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) or Dave Zabriskie (Garmin) to take the 2009 Tour's first yellow jersey. GC hopefuls such as Alberto Contador (Astana), Levi Leipheimer (Astana), or Michael Rogers (Columbia) will seek to establish themselves in a good early position. A rider such as Leipheimer might seek to do both. Expect an interesting first stage.
Stage 2, a rolling, 187-km run from Monaco to Brignoles, will feature four categorized climbs. None of these, however, will be tough enough to shake the sprinters. Look for riders such as Mark Cavendish (Columbia), Thor Hushovd (Cervelo), and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) to vie for the day's honors. Stage 3, a 196-km ride from Marseille to La Grande-Motte, features a long, flat second half and should end like Stage 2.
Stage 4, a rolling, 39-km team trial in Montpellier, will be the first test of strength for the teams. Look for Columbia, Garmin, and Astana to fight for the win.
Stages 5 and 6 will be sprinters' stages. The first of these, a 196.5-km ride from Le Cap d'Agde to Perpignan, should end in a cavalry charge, but the second is harder to predict. The 181.5-km ride from Girona, Spain to Barcelona, Spain will have an uphill finish, which might eliminate some of those who might otherwise be expected to contend for victory. Still, a bunch finish should occur, and a sprinter should win.
Stage 7 will be the 2009 Tour's first mountain stage. The 224-km ride from Barcelona to Arcalis will feature the Category 1 Col de Serra-Seca at 127 km. The climb to the finish will be hors categorie . Look for a Spanish rider, particularly Contador or Carlos Sastre (Cervelo), to win this stage in front of his compatriots.
Stages 8 and 9 could be decided by breakaways. Stage 8, a 176-km run from Andorre-la-Vielle to Saint-Girons, will feature the Category