Course PreviewStage 8: Le Sentier - Crans-Montana
Date: Saturday, 20 June
Distance: 181.7 km
Terrain:.Another flat day with a wall at the end
GC Importance: The final chance for the mountain lovers to gain some time, but the final climb is only long enough to permit small gaps.
Climbs: Col du Mollendruz (uncategorized 1180m), Botyre (980m), Crans Montana (1505m)
Details: The penultimate stage of the 2009 TdS presents the climbers with the last real opportunity to put some time into their rivals before the final stage time trial in Berne. But gaining such time will be a tough challenge in light of the route of the stage, which for the most part, is flat and non-challenging. The climbers if they are to make their move, will have to wait for the final 30km of the stage to make their move. It may well be the case that the final climb of the race to Crans-Montana is just not difficult enough for any riders to put and substantial time into others.
The last time the race came here was in 2007 when Dutch hope Thomas Dekker, then of Rabobank, took the stage after jumping the riders in a small break that he formed part of. Then the stage had to be shortened due to horrific hail storms lashed the riders and caused substantial damage to race cars following the race.
This year, stage 8 starts at altitude in Le Sentier in the Vallée de Joux. After a gentle roll-out the peloton will cross over the Col du Mollendruz after 20km presenting a brief but sharp challenge for the riders. The peloton will spend the next 30km descending down to Morges before joining the road along Lake Geneva through Lausanne and Montreux and on to Aigle (after 96km) where the riders will reach the feed zone. Up to this point, there will have been nothing in the parcours to trouble the riders, apart perhaps from the prevailing wind which will be on the riders face the whole way along the lake.
After Aigle the riders continue along the straight roads from St Maurice (68km) to Chamoson (40km to go) There the riders will tackle a relatively short but very sharp lump which could present a tester for some riders keen to determine the prospects of getting away. Whilst the road flattens out for the sprint in Sion (28km to go), the road soon veers left for the start of the climb to Crans-Montana.
The climb is in three distinct segments. The first segment is categorized as a category 3 climb itself and summits in the town of Botyre with just 20km to go. By now the riders will almost be back to 100m and will only have 500m of altitude climbing to go. After a short, minor drop down, the road turns up again for the second segment, just 5km to the town of Lens. Here the final intermediate sprint of the race takes place, although it is difficult to see what sprinters will still be in contention at this point.
The final segment of the climb crests in the town of Montana at 1506m with just 3km to go. Here category one points will be on offer for the first rider over the top. The final 3km are sufficiently flat to enable a regrouping if there are a number of riders leading by small margins. — Edward Madden — Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->