The Tour de France continues in the Pyrenees tonight, with another mountainous stage from Pau to Laurens set to test the peloton with steep climbs on the agenda.
Pau is a regular finishing town of the Tour de France, but this time the riders click into their pedals in the southern French town for a virtually flat opening of 50 kilometres. With the sprint behind a nasty climb today, there will be a big chance for Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) to go in the break and grab some points that major rival Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) won't be able to access.
Then the Col de La Hourcère appears, a really hard ascent. The climb is 11.1 kilometres long and slopes at 8.8 per cent. A short descent leads onto the next climb, the Col de Soudet. Peaking out at the highest point of the day (1,540 metres), the ascent is 3.8 kilometres at 8.5 per cent.
A long descent of 20 kilometres takes the riders back down, take in the sprint point and then tackle a hilly zone leading up to the last climb. The Col de Marie Blanque is 7.7 kilometres long and the average gradients sits at 8.6 per cent.
The early part of the climb is relatively easy, but as a consequence the second part is harder, with gradients hovering around 12 per cent for long sections. The first three riders over the Marie Blanque gain time bonuses of 8, 5 and 2 seconds on the general classification.
A downhill of 12 kilometres flies down into Bilhères-en-Ossau. The finale that follows the descent is slightly uphill and will likely be the scene of a frantic chase from contenders for the stage and general classification that haven't been able to follow attacks on the Col de Marie Blanque.
With those seriously tough gradients near the peak of the Col de Marie Blanque, it would be a surprise not to see attacking racing near the summit.
Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Nairo Quintana (Arkea-Samsic) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) look to be the form climbers at present in the race, and with others like defending champion Egan Bernal (INEOS Grenadiers) showing signs of weakness, there's no time like the present to start putting in some time gaps. The stage comes ahead of a rest day, and traditionally riders don't mind empyting the tank a bit more with the knowledge they can recover a bit on the following day.
Watch the action from Stage 9 of the Tour de France from 8:05pm AEST on the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker and from 8:30pm on SBS and via SBS On Demand.