Well, today was about what I expected to see; a break rolled off during the first half of the transitional stage through the mountains and then was caught just before the line, as the sprinter's teams wanted another shot at a sprint win.
To that end, Mark Cavendish notched win number two of this Tour and was followed directly by his teammate Gerard (Gerald?) Ciolek. Team Boring Kit is proving to be one helluva team this Tour. Cavendish is easily the best sprinter so far and Columbia has shown great depth and strength. They are riding like a sprinter's team, so I am curious to see how they expect to protect the jersey in the mountains... and they are coming tomorrow. Third was Jimmy Casper- the French sprinter who just seems to keep on going year after year. Sadly, McEwen was in 17th and is just not showing his old form... and one has to wonder now if it just is not to be for him this year.
4th was Oscar Freire and 6th was Erik Zabel; it makes my heart glad to see the "old sprinters" still in the thick of things. As one friend has said- maybe the lack of dope is keeping them in the hunt this time. (I'm not going into the whole Beltran fiasco...)
One significant turn of events was a bad crash towards the end of the day, in a roundabout, with Riccardo Ricco. Ricco was slow to get up and spent some time with the race doctors, but managed to make it back to the field and finished on same time as the winner. However, any crash like that means soreness the next day and tomorrow would normally be a day perfect for Ricco. Will he be in too much pain to go on the expected attack?
Stage 9 is going to be very hard, with 7 categorized climbs, including two Category 1 climbs; the fabled Peyresourde and Col d'Aspin. These are epic climbs with great history and I can't wait to see what happens. Will the contenders simply sit on and mark each other? Will somebody attack and stamp their name on this race? Will Cadel Evans answer his critics who say he is too conservative and go on the attack himself? Will Cunego and/ or Ricco be recovered from their recent falls and try to make an impression on this race? Can Kirchen defend on real climbs? It should be very interesting to watch. Sylvain Chavanel had the KOM jersey, so I'd expect him to be on the attack early so he can get it back from David de la Fuente (Saunier-Duval). The one saving grace for some riders is that there is a 26km descent to the finish line and a regrouping is likely... but will it be enough for riders dropped off the back on the final climb?
Tomorrow should be a very interesting stage, indeed.