Soler Wins Stage 9 of Tour
Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) has won Stage 9 of the Tour de France.
Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) has won Stage 9 of the Tour de France. Soler soloed away from the remnants of a break to take the mountainous, 159.5-km ride from Val d'Isere to Briancon in 4:14:24. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) outsprinted Cadel Evans (Predictor) at 0:38. Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) remains the yellow jersey.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. The stage began with the riders tackling the Tour's highest climb, the 9,085-foot hors categorie Col de l'Iseran. Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) attacked, and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne), Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel), Vladimir Gusev (Discovery Channel), Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom), and Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) followed. With Rabobank riding tempo in the peloton, the sextet forged a 30-second lead at 15 km. Their advantage grew to 2:48 at 59 km and 3:34 at 87 km.
Ag2r and Saunier Duval began to chase. When the break reached the lower slopes of the Category 1 Col du Telegraphe, the lead was 2:30. Astarloza attacked his companions, and the break split.
At the summit of the Telegraphe, Astarloza led Popovych, Gusev, Gutierrez, and Clement by 0:21 and the peloton, which Rabobank again led, by 3:10. Soler attacked from the bunch.
On the lower slopes of the hors categorie Col de Galibier, the Popovych group caught Astarloza. Ten km from the summit, Soler caught the escapees. He attacked and dropped the group almost immediately.
Behind, Valverde attacked. Rasmussen, Cadel Evans (Predictor), Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval), Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador (both from Discovery Channel), Carlos Sastre (CSC), Andreas Kloden and Andrei Kaschechkin (both from Astana), and Christophe Moreau (Ag2r) followed, while Frank Schleck (CSC), Denis Menchov (Rabobank), and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) were dropped. Kashechkin dropped back to help Vinokourov.
Valverde's pressure dropped Moreau, but the Frenchman got back on. Contador attacked, and Evans followed but was eventually dropped. At the summit, Contador joined Popovych.
Popovych and Contador pursued Soler. With 25 km left, the Discovery Channel men were 1:36 behind the Colombian. Behind, Evans waited for Valverde, Leipheimer, and Rasmussen. The foursome overtook Popovych and Contador with 5.4 km left. Soler, however, was gone.
Several Tour hopefuls saw their aspirations dashed. Vinokourov, who took 30 stitches in his legs after a Stage 5 crash, lost 3:24 and is now 21st overall at 8:05. Schleck finished in Vinokourov's group, while Menchov finished 32nd at 4:33. The Alps did not decide who would win the Tour, but they did decide who will not.
In the overall, Rasmussen leads Valverde by 2:35 and Mayo by 2:39. Stage 10 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 229-km run from Tallard to Marseilles will feature two Category 4 ascents and two Category 3 climbs. After the hard Alpine riding, the bunch will let an escape go. Who will be in it? Who will win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!