The 2011 Tour de France participants can rest on Monday from this weekend's mountain stages, but first they must finish Stage 9, which runs from Issoire to Saint-Flour. This course lasts for 208 km (129 mi) and will provide a grueling test for its riders during the middle of it.
The day starts out fairly well until the 43.5 km mark when the first of eight climbs comes up. Once the field reaches Côte de Massiac, the race stays in the high ground until Col du Pas de Peyrol comes at 100 km. From that point on, there will be four more climbs that take the riders up and down the mountains. But none is higher than that the Pas de Peyrol that started it all. After the Col de Prat de Bouc, there is a steady decline in elevation, as it leads to the sprint at Neuvéglise. Two Category 4 climbs await the riders in the final 15 km, but they'll be battle-hardened after the previous Categories 2 and 3 they faced earlier.
Don't expect a sprinter to win this stage. Also, it may the end for Thor Hushovd with the maillot jaune, but he thought that before Stage 8 as well. He did finish 15 seconds behind winner Rui Alberto Costa, but Cadel Evans also finished at the same time as Hushovd, who still leads by one second.
VERSUS has live coverage at 6 a.m. MT as usual.
For in-depth coverage of the race, visit out cycling blog, Podium Cafe, and our SB Nation StoryStream.