Tour de France Stage 9: Time Traveler
Today's stage 9—a 41.5-km (25.8-mile) individual time trial—featured, by some measures, the least interesting racing of the Tour to date. Riders set out at intervals, each speeding over the course alone, save for the ticking clock. But this year's Tour is time trial-heavy, with 96km (59.7 miles) of solo or team riding, enough to favor time trial specialists like Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome (Sky) over pure climbers like Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan).
Today's results proved it with Wiggins laying down an average of 30.1 mph for the day's fastest time, 51:24, and adding an impressive1:43 to his lead over 2011 Tour champ Cadel Evans (BMC Racing). Other top performances came from Froome, at 0:35, former world champion Fabian Cancellara, at 0:57, Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing), at 1:06, and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), at 1:24. Evans came in 6th. Reigning world champ and today's favorite, Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) came in 12th, despite racing with a broken wrist and getting a flat tire. It was a harder course today than some racer's expected, with a mid-ride climb that proved tough. "It's actually harder than the profile shows," David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) told Agence France Press. "It's steep, I didn't expect it to be that steep. It's a really good course for the guys who can climb and time trial, Froome, Wiggo and Cadel."
The upshot of today's time trial is that Team Sky, having proven itself to be the strongest team in the mountains on Saturday's Stage 7, goes into the Alps holding first (Wiggins) and third place (Chris Froome) overall, positions it's in good shape to defend. That means that other overall contenders, namely Evans, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) will have to make some heroic attacks in the Alps—both on leg-shredding climbs and dizzying descents—to try to close the gap to Wiggins.
Tomorrow is a rest day before Wednesday's Stage 10, the first big day in the Alps. In addition to a Cat. 2 and a Cat. 3 climb, there will be the hors catégorie Col du Grand Colombier. It's the first time the Tour's ever gone over this mountain pass, which includes more than 4,000 feet of climbing.