With a non-threatening break or two off the front for most of the day, the GC contenders were content to sit together and restrain Cadel Evans. Ã‚Â By the first climb up Col d’Aspin, Thor Hushovd, who started the day as the points leader in Green, had fallen off the back.
Franco Pellizotti led the two-person leadout, gaining 40 points for crossing the Hors Categorie Col du Tourmalet first and moving into third overall for points. Bbox’s Fedrigo was right behind him as they began the final (70km) descent to the finish a full five minutes ahead of the pack.
In the next chase group, Voeckler (Bbox), Voight (Saxo Bank) and six others worked to put some time on the main field and maintain a protective position in case their team leaders made the jump.
In the GC leader pack, many expected Yellow Jersey wearer Nocentini to struggle on the climbs, but he rode strong with Armstrong, Contador, Vande Velde, Evans and the others all the way up both of the day’s climbs and starting the final long descent together.
Hitting upwards of 55mph on the descent, though Rabobank’s Tendam went down and got a little dirty, everyone safely made it to the bottom together. Ã‚Â As the peloton packed together, Columbia-HTC’s team director made the call for them to reel in the the seven-strong chase-one group.
Pics and finish after the break…
Nocentini hung with the pack against pre-stage assumptions.
Undoubtely, the riders in the first chase group heard this. Ã‚Â Voight dropped back to the main group…all the way back, actually, and started getting water bottles for his teammates. Ã‚Â At 39K (19.5mi) to go, the gap from the lead two to the pack was down to 2:48.
Team Rababank started taking charge, trying to position Oscar Freire for a good finish. Ã‚Â At 25.9km (16.2mi), the gap was down to 2:32, showing that the peloton was slowing its chase pace slightly…or Pellizotti starting pushing himself, which seemed to be the case. Ã‚Â After almost 160km out in front, he wasn’t about to let his efforts be for not.
Columbia’s director, meanwhile, changed tune and told his team to hold position at the front, but not to work. Ã‚Â Rabobank’s efforts to push the pace were now being matched by Caisse D’Espargne riders to keep Rojas (5th place finish yesterday) in a position to sprint for the win, but at 15k to go, it became clear they were tired of pushing the pace for everyone else…problem was, no one else cared if they caught the lead two or not.
At 8.0km (5.1mi) to the finish, Pellizotti was feeling the pain, and the gap had dropped to just over a minute. Ã‚Â More than 15 minutes down from Yellow at the start of today’s stage, Pellizotti was going for the stage win, not Ã‚Â really to improve his overall standing.
At about 2.5 miles to go, Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck flatted had a quick bike change, but Voight quickly pulled him back into the Yellow Jersey group, keeping him in the game. Ã‚Â At one mile to go, Caisse D’Epargne had just one rider left doing the work, but Pellizotti and Fedrigo were a full kilometer ahead. Pellizotti let Federigo pull in front and Pellizotti jumped, thinking he had the win as they rounded the final corner…into a headwind! Fredrigo slammed himself into the slipstream and at the last second whipped around to eek out a win!
As some consolation, Pellizotti won the “Most Aggressive Rider of the Day” award. Ã‚Â After the stage, Fedrigo said all the pre-race planning said whoever rounded the final turn first would get the win, but the headwind that Pellizotti slammed into gave him the advantage being in the slipstream…and he pulled quickly around to surprise everyone.
Oscar Friere sprinted out of the main field to show he’s still got it, taking third for the day.
Saxo Bank’s Rinaldo Nocentini remains in Yellow with no change to the overall classifications.
Eukatel’s Martinez grabs the Polka Dot climber’s jersey.
The final climb up the Col du Tourmalet was a bit disappointing in terms of drama. Ã‚Â No one jumped or tried to attack, but with the long 70km push to the finish after the summit, it probably would have been a waste. Ã‚Â The real action now will probably happen at Ventoux and the other final climbing stages next week.
Today’s Cadillac promo word is “cervelo” and yesterday’s was “climb.”
2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 9 TOP 10
|7||G. Van Avermaet||SIL||+34″|
2009 TOUR de FRANCE STAGE 9 OVERALL CLASSIFICATION TOP 10
|8||C. Vande Velde||GRM||+1Ã¢â‚¬Â²24Ã¢â‚¬Â³|