Stage 9: Andorra to Barcelona, 196.3km
Today’s relatively long stage finishes in the Olympic city of Barcelona, for the first time in 13 years. The boys have a Cat 3 climb to get over as they dip into Catalonia, then it’s downhill all the way to Spain’s second city. Oh, except for a nasty little climb in the form of Montjuic, which tops out 3.5km from the finish line. It’s only 1.1km long but a punchy 8.1% steep. That’ll stop the pure sprinters from getting into the action. Then, after a twisty descent, the final 1.5km is one long uphill ramp too.
The stage will be most likely won by a tough guy from a break or a Classics type with a late attack. It’s perfect for the 2011 model Philippe Gilbert – less so this year’s version, but look for a puncheur rather than a GC man to make a late bid for victory.
Tomorrow, finally, the guys get a rest day – albeit one which involves a massive transfer from the east coast to the west. I expect they’ll be happy about the former, less so about the latter.