Tour de France '07 Stage 9: Val-d’Isere - Briancon

Soler - FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

FRANCK FIFE/AFP/Getty Images

Barloworld's Juan Mauricio Soler took a surprise win today, attacking solo on the Telegraphe to bridge all the way from the peloton to a breakaway far up the road. Soler quickly left the break behind and held off a chase group of the top contenders all the way to the finish line.

Today's stage was full of fireworks that made for exciting racing on the classic climbs of the Galibier and Telegraphe. Discovery put the most cards into play with Popovych, Gusev, Contador, and Levi all playing a role. Popovych and Gusev were first as they went on the attack from the start to position themselves far up the road. Popovych was the only rider able to follow Soler's wheel as Soler accelerated past, but even Popo couldn't hold on as the slopes of the Galibier ticked upwards.

Valverde shook things up in the peloton with an attack that shed Vinokourov and Schleck. The other contenders were able to follow, but Contador became the next Discovery card to be played as he put in an attack that Evans briefly followed. Contador's attack was strong enough to catch Popo up the road and Popo dug deep to try and pull Soler back on the descent towards Briancon.

The Valverde/Rasmussen group reeled Evans in on the descent and set their eyes on Popo and Contador. Evans was caught sleeping and the group split in half, with Evans/Levi/Mayo/Moreau/Sastre caught behind. They had trouble organizing a chase and Levi was able to use the position of his two teammates up the road to sit and do little work. Levi was a bit annoyed with Saunier Duval as Cobo wasn't willing to do work for Mayo to pull things back.

Valverde and teammate Gutierrez were able to reel in Popo and Contador and soon after the other contenders latched back on. Discovery played its last cards as Popovych accelerated to try and reel Soler back in for Contador. Soler was much too far up the road and it was Valverde who put in the last attack of the day to take second with a small time gap over the other contenders. Contador was rewarded with the white Best Young Rider jersey for his efforts.

The overall competition saw a little more sorting today. Valverde is earning is favorite status and Rasmussen defended his yellow well. Kloden is now the apparent leader of Astana as Vino was no longer protected. Evans is looking stronger than I expected while Sastre and Leipheimer are still racing conservatively in the Alps. Schleck wasn't able to hold on and may no longer have backup leader status and Menchov was dropped, hurting his leader status over Rasmussen. Kim Kirchen is a bright light for T-Mobile and Mayo could be a dark horse favorite if he continues to be strong. Moreau faltered but didn't break, but he's only shooting for top 3. The GC is looking more proper, but the top three in Paris really haven't shown themselves yet:

1 Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2 Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) 2.35
3 Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval-Prodir) 2.39
4 Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) 2.41
5 Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) 3.08
6 Christophe Moreau (Ag2r Prévoyance) 3.18
7 Carlos Sastre (Team CSC) 3.39
8 Andreas Klöden (Astana) 3.50
9 Levi Leipheimer (Discovery Channel) 3.53
10 Kim Kirchen (T-Mobile) 5.06

Today's stage finally finished well in advance of the planned Versus TV schedule, which is to say the Tour is on.

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CyclingNews Stage 9 Preview:

Bang! Right from the start of stage nine, the Tour peloton will ascend from the exclusive ski resort of Val d'Isère. The riders will head up the windy, wide-open slopes of the Col de l'Iseran (15km @ 6%) to the 2770-metre high summit, one of the highest in Europe.

Coming as it does on the day after the rest day in Tignes, the climb will be doubly-hard and once over the top, it's a long, fast downhill run down the Maurienne valley to St.Michel-de-Maurienne. There the long, legendary double ascent of the Télégraphe (12.0 km climb @ 6.7 % grade / 1st Cat) and Galibier (17.5 km @ 6.9 %) begins and it will certainly make a crucial selection, especially on the steep final 10 kilometres of the Galibier.

Then it's a long, fast descent past the monument to Tour founder Henri Desgranges with 37 kilometres to go to the finish in Europe's highest city of Briancon and a steep, difficult stage finish in the Fort de Salettes.

I'm always excited to see a good ole' Telegraphe and Galibier.

My prediction: Valverde. He showed he's got the legs for the Alps and I think the stage finish will favor someone with his skills: a climber with a good finishing sprint.

Other live coverage links

Versus picks

  • Al: Contador
  • Paul: Valverde
  • Bob: Sastre
  • Phil: Mayo

kwc.org stage log

Minimal live stage log today.

Popovych took the Col d'I'Iseran. He was joined by teammate Gusev, Astarloza (Euskatel), Vaugrenard (FDJ), Lefevre (BT), Gutierrez (Caisse),

A dog crashed Marcus Burghardt -- Burghardt's wheel crumpled into the side of the dog. The dog seemed fine.

Astarloza split the break on the Telegraphe. Gusev, Popo, and Gutierrez are chasing.

Millar has the pace-setting duty at the front of the peloton... he's blown but SD keeps putting the pressure on the front

Barloworld's Soler jumps off the front

Lemevel launched an attack from the peloton and the peloton doesn't flinch

Vino is chatting with the Tour doctor. He's got less bandages now

Astarloza takes the Telegraphe. The Disco chase group is about 0:21 behind

Voeckler led out Lefevre for some KOM points

The peloton is quickly descending to the start of the Galibier climb

The Disco group has caught Astarloza and it's now Gusev, Popo, Gutierrez, and Astarloza. Gusev tries to attack the group, Gutierrez counters, and they're back together.

Soler bridged all the way to the Disco group and zooms right on past. Popo, Gutierrez, and Astarloza follow. Gusev is gone. Astarloza looks in pain. Gutierrez and Astarloza are both being shelled.

Soler shells Popo with an acceleration

Valverde puts in a big attack! Ras and Evans follow. Evans counters. Contador and Mayo are come up as is Levi. Evans is leading the charge now. The peloton is now split in three.

Vino and Gerdemann are being dropped.

They are climbing on turbo right now. Menchov, Kloden, Sastre, de la Fuente have made the lead group. Kash is hovering off the back.

Valverde attacks again! Mayo is bridging people back. Moreau and Kash is almost get unhitched. Menchov is dropping. I can't spot Schleck in the lead group.

Vino is actually pacing back. It looks like CSC is helping him out, probably for Schleck.

Moreau is finally dropped.

Contador attacks! The motos can't keep up! He flies past Popo.

Evans is trying to bridge up. Rasmussen tows Levi back up. Evans has caught Contador's wheel.

Disco is in a great position with Contador on the attack and Levi + Gusev in the group behind. Popo should still be up the road. They have to be worried about Contador towing Evans into the lead, though.

Contador is trying to drop Evans and does.

Moreau is clawing back and Gusev is gettin a tow.

Further back Schleck is helping tow Vino.

Soler takes the KOM. He's got three minutes over the Rasmussen group

Contador is catching Popo at the top of the KOM. It will be two against one as they try and catch Soler on the descent. They'll have to hold off Evans.

Valverde is leading the Rasmussen group that has most of the main contenders.

Evans is caught by the Ras/Valverde group.

Evans let a split form in the leaders group. Now Moreau is making Evans chase. Kloden chases and now it seems like they are finally chasing. Valverde and Ras are driving it ahead and making it hard for the rest of the contenders to chase.

Levi looks a bit angry at SD's Cobo. SD has two riders and should be chasing.

Contador and Popo are a minute behind Soler

The Valverde group is catching Popo/Contador! Disco's plan seems to be falling apart. Levi is catching a free ride but his group is still chasing the Valverde group. Popo and Contador put in a great effort but were caught. Soler is somehow staying ahead.

The Evans/Levi group is finally catching back on. It'll be interesting to see what Disco does with three riders.

Soler has a kilometer to hold off the chasers and the road ticks up.

Popo is tearing himself inside out to bring things back for Contador. Popo is blown and now Evans charges. Levi was in a bit of difficulty but pulls back in.

Soler has a 400km advantage

Solder takes it in a great win for the wildcard team!

Valverde is charging for second with Evans behind. He's got a gap and takes second. Evans then Contador. Moreau is gapped.

related articles: Tour de France 2007
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