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July 9 post: With one stage to go before the first rest day, stage 9 will be a "medium mountainous" day through the Massif Centrale featuring a mix of cat 2, cat 3 and cat 4 climbs, totaling eight categorized climbs and by some accounts, 12000 ft (3658m) of elevation gain (see details above). Needless to say, anyone who's after the KOM Jersey will need to get in the main break.

This long (208 km) up and down stage on narrow roads will be hard to control so expect a break to succeed just like in 2004, the last time the Tour finished in Saint-Flour. That year, with the blessing of US Postal/Lance Armstrong, Richard Virenque won all nine KOMs and the stage by over five minutes much to the delight of the large French crowd on Bastille Day.

Race leader Thor Hushovd looked gutted at the end of Stage 8. Expect a new race leader to take the Yellow Jersey into the first rest day ending Thor Hushovd's eight day run. Although the finish to Saint-Flour is similar to Saturday's 1.5 km final climb to Super Besse, expect Hushovd to get unhitched somewhere on the previous seven climbs. — Steve