Preview: Gravel Drama on Stage 9 of the 2024 Tour de France

07.07.2024

On the 9th stage of the 2024 Tour de France, you can’t win the Tour, but you can certainly lose it. The 199-kilometer route, with both the start and finish in Troyes, is challenging. With 14 gravel sectors, the so-called Chemins Blancs, this last stage of the first week is filled with difficulties. As if 32.3 kilometers over gravel weren’t challenging enough, the stage also winds through the Champagne vineyards over rolling terrain, adding up to 2,000 meters of elevation gain.

Stage 9 | 7 July | Troyes to Troyes | 199 km | 2,000 m elevation gain

© ASO

The last stage before the first rest day is a real challenge. While the riders won’t be climbing high mountains, significant time gaps can still occur. The 9th stage features 32.2 kilometers of gravel roads, known in France as Chemins Blancs, inspired by the 4th stage of the 2022 Tour de France Femmes from Troyes to Bar-sur-Aube, which provided spectacular racing.

Stage 9 of the 2024 Tour de France also starts in Troyes and begins with a flat 35 kilometers past Lac d’Orient and Vendeuvre-sur-Barse into the hills. The next 100 kilometers are rolling, passing through vineyards and featuring four fourth-category climbs.

Gravel vineyard roads are the key challenge of Stage 9

The first gravel sector, Chemin Blanc de Bligny à Bergères, starts at kilometer 47, setting the stage for the challenge ahead. From Bar-sur-Aube, riders must be ready, especially the GC contenders. At kilometer 67, one of the toughest sectors, Chemin Blanc de Baroville, begins. It’s only 1,200 meters long but leads directly into the category-4 climb Côte de Baroville (2.8 kilometers at 4.8%).

Sector 13, along with sectors 11 and 10, are among the most challenging, combining gravel and climbing, earning a three-star difficulty rating from the race organizer A.S.O., similar to Paris-Roubaix’s cobblestones.

After the sprint in Fontette, a brutal sequence of gravel sectors (12, 11, 10) and climbs Côte de Loches-sur-Ource, Côte de Val Frion (2.2 kilometers at 5%), and Côte de Chacenay (3 kilometers at 4.3%) begins at the race’s midpoint.

Around 50 kilometers from the finish, the terrain flattens out, but seven more gravel sectors remain. The final one, sector 14, Chemin Blanc de Saint-Parres-aux-Tertres, is 9.6 kilometers before the finish in Troyes.

The 14 Gravel Sectors of Stage 9 of the 2024 Tour de France

  1. Chemin Blanc de Bligny à Bergères | Length 2,000 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 47.3
  2. Chemin Blanc de Baroville | Length 1,200 meters | Difficulty *** | Kilometer 67
  3. Chemin Blanc des Hautes Forêts | Length 1,500 meters | Difficulty ** | Kilometer 96
  4. Chemin Blanc de Polisy à Celles-sur-Ource | Length 3,400 meters | Difficulty *** | Kilometer 105.2
  5. Chemin Blanc de Loches-sur-Ource à Chacenay | Length 4,200 meters | Difficulty *** | Kilometer 118.6
  6. Chemin Blanc du Plateau de la Côte des Bar | Length 2,200 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 131.9
  7. Chemin Blanc de Thieffrain à Magnant | Length 3,900 meters | Difficulty *** | Kilometer 140.8
  8. Chemin Blanc de Briel-sur-Barse | Length 2,200 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 151.9
  9. Chemin Blanc du Ru de Paradis | Length 1,200 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 165.7
  10. Chemin Blanc de Fresnoy-Le-Château à Clérey | Length 1,800 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 169
  11. Chemin Blanc des Verrières | Length 1,500 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 24
  12. Chemin Blanc de Daudes | Length 1,900 meters | Difficulty * | Kilometer 21
  13. Chemin Blanc de Montaulin à Rouilly-Saint-Loup | Length 2,200 meters | Difficulty ** | Kilometer 16.7
  14. Chemin Blanc de Saint-Parres-aux-Tertres | Length 1,300 meters | Difficulty ** | Kilometer 9.6

Favorites Check: Stage Win and Yellow Jersey

This stage is dreaded by many GC riders because it can’t win them the Tour, but it can certainly cause them to lose it. Mechanical issues or missing the right group could lead to significant time losses. Similar stages in past editions of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour, known for their classic character, have shown this. Therefore, protecting their leader and keeping him close to his rivals will be crucial for the teams aiming for a good overall position.

The question remains if this will also be the case for Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), given that his teammate Carlos Rodriguez is seventh overall. And will Wout van Aert (Visma | Lease a Bike) get a chance to ride for himself, or will he need to keep Jonas Vingegaard out of trouble?

Van der Poel as the Favorite for the Gravel Stage

Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is the favorite, known for excelling in classics and gravel races, as evidenced by his 2021 Strade Bianche victory. He also has a strong team for support. With Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) out due to injury, a major competitor is missing, but Toms Skujiņš has shown strong performances on gravel. Other contenders include Maxim Van Gils (Lotto Dstny) and Oier Lazkano (Movistar), who won the Clásica Jaén. Additionally, Matej Mohorič (Bahrain-Victorious), the reigning gravel world champion, is a key competitor.

© Photonews

However, they all need to watch out for Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates). The Yellow Jersey wearer is uniquely suited to this ninth stage.

Pogacar loves this type of racing. He has won the Strade Bianche twice, even though the gravel there is different. As an instinctive racer, he knows how to handle these conditions, as demonstrated in the 2022 Roubaix stage of the Tour de France. For Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step), Jonas Vingegaard (Visma | Lease a Bike), and Primoz Roglic (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe), the aim will be to navigate the Chemins Blancs sections without losing time.

The stress before the start of this stage will be intense, as everyone – riders, management, and staff – knows what’s at stake. A negative mindset or fear can impact performance, but UAE Team Emirates and Pogacar have an advantage, as he takes things in stride and relishes such challenges.

Stage 9 Classifications

Sprint Points

  • Fontette | Kilometer 83.5

King of the Mountains

  • Côte de Bergères | Category 4 | Kilometer 51.7
  • Côte de Baroville | Category 4 | Kilometer 69.6
  • Côte de Val Frion | Category 4 | Kilometer 107.5
  • Côte de Chacenay | Category 4 | Kilometer 121.2

Header Image: © ASO