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Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorra Arcalis

Sant Julia de Loria, Andorra

Sant Julia de Loria, by Joan Valls, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

A guide to Stage 9 of the Tour de France 2016. Stage 9 of the 2016 Tour is from Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorra Arcalis, via Salardu, Baqueira, Valencia d'Aneu, la Guingueta d'Aneu, Escalo, Llavorsi, Rialp, Sort, la Seu d'Urgell, Sant Julia de Loria, Andorra la Vella, Escaldes Engordany, Encamp, and Ordino. The distance covered is 184.5km. This mountain stage is in Spain and Andorra, with climbs of the Port de la Bonaigua (Category 1), the Port del Canto (Category 1), the Côte de la Comella (Category 2), the Col de Beixalis (Category 1), and the final climb to Andorra Arcalis (hors catégorie). There's an intermediate sprint at Andorra la Vella. At times during the day, the altitude is high, especially at the finish at 2,240m. The riders will probably be grateful for the rest day that follows this stage. Read about Stage 9 of the Tour de France 2016 here.

Read the Stage 9 race report.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: facts, figures, and map

Stage 9 of the Tour de France 2016 is 184.5km from Vielha Val d'Aran to Andorra Arcalis.

Stage classification Mountain
Distance 184.5km
Sprints Andorra la Vella (after 138km)
Climbs Port de la Bonaigua (Category 1)
Port del Canto (Category 1)
Côte de la Comella (Category 2)
Col de Beixalis (Category 1)
Andorra Arcalis (hors catégorie)

There's an official map of Stage 9, Tour de France 2016.

This is the official Tour de France stage profile for Stage 9:

Profile of Stage 9, Tour de France 2016

Stage 9 profile, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: timings

These are some of the Stage 9 timings (based on the medium estimated speed of 33kmh):

Km Place Time
Départ fictif in Vielha Val d'Aran 1155
0 Départ réel  Vielha Val d'Aran 1205
5 Salardu 1214
19 Port de la Bonaigua (Category 1) 1252
40 La Guingueta d'Aneu 1313
64 Rialp 1350
87.5 Port del Canto (Category 1) 1449
119 La Seu d'Urgell 1526
132 Sant Julia de Loria 1548
138 Andorra-la-Vieille (sprint) 1558
143 Côte de la Comella (Category 2) 1612
147.5 Encamp 1617
157 Col de Beixalis (Category 1) 1642
166 Ordino 1658
184.5 Finish at Andorra Arcalis 1741

See the full timings for Stage 9 on the Tour de France website, based on average speeds of 35, 33, and 31kmh.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Geraint Thomas's view

Geraint Thomas at the Volta ao Algarve 2016

Geraint Thomas at the Volta ao Algarve 2016, by muffinn, Licence CC BY 2.0

Geraint Thomas has previewed all the stages of this year's Tour de France for the BBC. These are his thoughts on Stage 9: 'Everyone will be warming up on the rollers because we begin with a climb and that's not the nicest way to start a day. We've been to see the last 60km of this stage and ridden the final three ascents and they are tough. It will be the first day where we get a really good look at the general classification riders.' [What about Stage 8, Geraint?]

Who does Geraint Thomas tip to win? 'Chris Froome. Pyschologically, it would be great if he could win the stage, or gain time on his rivals on the first big summit finish.'

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: the start at Vielha Val d'Aran

Vielha Val d'Aran

Vielha Val d'Aran, by Alberto Gonzalez Rovira, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Stage 9 starts in Vielha Val d'Aran, Catalonia, Spain. The Val d'Aran runs parallel to the Vallée de la Pique, and is the only valley in Catalonia on the northern side of the Pyrenees. (The finish of Stage 8 is in Bagnères-de-Luchon, in the Vallée de la Pique, so the riders don't have far to travel to the start of Stage 9). 

The départ fictif is at 1155, and ten minutes later when the flag goes down for the départ réel, the riders head up the Val d'Aran towards the Port de la Bonaigua.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Vielha Val d'Aran to la Seu d'Urgell

la Seu d'Urgell

La Seu d'Urgell, by jqmj (Queralt), Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Leaving Vielha Val d'Aran, the riders head east up the Val d'Aran. This map shows the first part of the route:

Map showing the first part of the route of Stage 9, Tour de France 2016, from Vielha to the Port de la Bonaigua

The route goes by Betren, Arties, Gessa, Salardu, Trédos, and Baqueira. At Baqueira, the ski lifts of Baqueira-Beret, one of Spain's largest ski resorts, are to the riders' left.

Ski lifts at Baqueira

Ski lifts at Baqueira, by Javier Vte Rejas, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The road continues to the top of the Port de la Bonaigua, the day's first categorised climb. 

Port de la Bonaigua (Category 1)

Port de la Bonaigua

Port de la Bonaigua, by Laurea, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The climb of the Port de la Bonaigua begins 5.3km after the start of the stage, just after Salardu, and is 13.7km long. The altitude at the bottom is about 1,240m, and at the top, it is 2,072m, giving a height gain of 832m, and an average gradient of 6.1%.

Vall d'Aneu

Vall d'Aneu, by Ramon de cal Benido, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

After passing over the Port de la Bonaigua, the riders descend into the Vall d'Aneu, following the riu de la Bonaigua stream and passing Valencia d'Aneu, then following the riu Noguera Pallaresa to la Guingueta d'Aneu. La Guingueta d'Aneu is near la Torrassa lake, which has a campsite.

Rafting at Llavorsi

Rafting on the Noguera Pallaresa at Llavorsi, by Adria Garcia, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The next hamlet is Escalo, then the race reaches Llavorsi, which has a rafting centre. Still by the Noguera Pallaresa, the riders come to Rialp, then Sort. If I've understood correctly, the offices of Spanish lottery la Bruixa d'Or are in Sort. [Insert joke about one rider's lucky number coming up today].

Sort, Catalonia

Sort, Catalonia, by Albert Torello, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The race forks left in Sort, on the N260. One kilometre after Sort the next climb, of the Port del Canto, begins.

Port del Canto (Category 1)

Port del Canto

View from Port del Canto, by Arnaucc, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

The climb of the Port del Canto is 19 kilometres long, from an altitude of 691m at the start, to 1,721m at the top. This gives a height gain of 1,030m, and an average gradient of 5.4%.

Parroquia d'Horto parish church

Parish church, Parroquia d'Horto, by Ferran Llorens, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The riders then descend via the little villages of la Parroquia d'Horto and Adrall to el Segre river. They go past Andorra-la Seu airport to la Seu d'Urgell.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: la Seu d'Urgell to Ordino

Sant Julia de Loria, Andorra

Sant Julia de Loria, by Joan Valls, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

From la Seu d'Urgell, venue of the white water events at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the riders take the N145 north alongside the Valira river. After about 10km, they cross the border between Spain and Andorra. The first town they come to in Andorra is Sant Julia de Loria, the lowest settlement in the Principality. 

Andorra la Vella, river Valira

Andorra la Vella, by Keith Laverack, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

5km further on, they get to Andorra la Vella, where the day's intermediate sprint takes place.

Profile of sprint at Andorra la Vella, Stage 9, Tour de France 2016

Profile of the sprint at Andorra la Vella, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

Immediately after the sprint in Andorra la Vella, the next climb begins - the Côte de la Comella. This map shows the final part of the route, with the last three climbs, including Côte de la Comella:

Map showing final part of Stage 9, Tour de France 2016, to the finish at Andorra Arcalis

Côte de la Comella (Category 2)

Instead of going directly to Escaldes-Engordany, the route out of Andorra la Vella takes the riders south, up the valley side, on the CS101, on a climb called the Côte de la Comella. The altitude at the start is 1,000m, and at the top it is 1,347m, so the height gained is 347m. The distance is 4.2km, giving an average gradient of 8.2%.

There's an official Tour de France graphic showing the stage profile from Andorra la Vella to the finish - so, the Côte de la Comella, and the two climbs which follow:

tProfile of the last 3 climbs on Stage 9, Tour de France 2016

Profile of Stage 9, Tour de France 2016, from Andorra la Vella to the finish at Andorra Arcalis, © A.S.O. Tour de France organisers

The riders descend to the main road, CG2, on the outskirts of Escaldes-Engordany, a built-up area adjoining Andorra la Vella. They turn right to Encamp. (Encamp is a town on the Valira d'Orient river. It's also a ski resort, with a funitel linking the town to the Grandvalira ski area to the east, and thus also to the resorts of Pas de la Casa and Soldeu).

Encamp

Encamp, by Fran Ontanaya, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

In Encamp, the riders take the CS210/CS310 towards the hamlet of Vila, and the next climb, the Col de Beixalis.

Col de Beixalis (Category 1)

The altitude at the bottom of the Col de Beixalis is about 1,250m, and at the top it is 1,796m, giving a height gain of 546m. The distance is 6.4km, so the average gradient is 8.5%.

The riders then descend and join the CG3, which takes them into Ordino. They stay on the CG3 until the finish, going up it on the final climb to Andorra Arcalis. The road runs alongside the Valira del Nord river, and goes through the hamlets of Sornas, Ansalonga, la Cortinada, Arans, Llorts, les Salines, and el Serrat. The gradient is gentle at first, and the climb proper starts at el Serrat.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: the final climb to Andorra Arcalis (hors catégorie)

Arcalis, Andorra

Arcalis (Andorra), by Asier Sarasua Aranberri, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 9 is a summit finish at Andorra Arcalis. The final climb is over a distance of 10.1km. It takes the riders from an altitude of 1,1510m at el Serrat, to 2,240m at the top. The height gain is 730m, and the average gradient is 7.2%.

Cyclefiesta describe the this as 'probably Andorra's best known cycling climb', and 'suiting riders who can grind out a consistently high tempo, rather than those who prefer changes in pace and steep gradients'.

Ski resort of Andorra Arcalis

Andorra Arcalis, by Terence wiki, Licence CC BY-SA 3.0

What will happen on Stage 9? There's an awful lot of climbing - that's a statement of the obvious. The climbing starts straight away, at the beginning of the day in Val d'Aran. The Category 2 climb, the Côte de Comella, is short and sharp, and might not suit Chris Froome - but if someone does get the jump on him there, Team Sky will still have enough road left to catch up. The final climb may be more to Froome's taste, as it's long, with an even gradient. The stage finishes at 2,240m, though - high enough for some riders to struggle in the thinner air.

If one of the favourites has a bad day, they could lose a lot of time. Some riders could abandon on Stage 9.

The winner? At high altitude, in an area where some people at least speak Spanish, I'd back Colombian rider Nairo Quintana.

After Stage 9, the riders will get a well-deserved rest day.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: the race organisers' analysis

Chris Froome

Chris Froome, after cycling through the Eurotunnel, by Jaguar MENA, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

The organisers of the race are analysing six key stages of the race, and one of those dissected by le Tour is Stage 9

They say, 'The gloves will come off for the favourites on the mountain-packed course of Stage 9, which concludes the Pyrenean trilogy before the rest day. Andorra Arcalis, 2,072m above sea level, will anoint the favourites...and, perhaps, knock out one or two.'

According to the analysis, this is statistically the toughest mountain stage of the Tour, with a total height gain of 4,960m. It is certainly the major Pyrenean stage of the 2016 Tour.

'Huge gaps are unlikely on the climb to Arcalis, but it will provide a clear picture of who is hot and who is not'.

The organisers say that Chris Froome usually lands a severe blow on the first big mountain test, and his attitude and cadence will be studied carefully. Spanish-speaking riders who will feel at home here include Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana.

Fabio Aru has fond memories of Andorra, from the Vuelta a Espana 2015, where he took the leader's red jersey in Cortals d'Encamp, then went on to win the race.

Andorra Arcalis in Tour de France history

The last time the Tour de France visited Andorra was in 2009, when there was also a summit finish in Arcalis. The winner that day (Stage 7 of the 2009 race) was Brice Feillu.

Stage 10, Tour de France 2016

Luzenac

Stage 10 of the 2016 Tour de France is from Escaldes Engordany to Revel. The stage starts in Andorra with the day's big climb, taking the riders up to 2,408m at the top of the Port d'Envalira. That's followed by 60km of downhill, then rolling terrain near the finish. The riders reach the arrival town of Revel, but are sent on a finishing circuit including the Category 3 climb of the Côte de Saint-Ferréol, before the survivors battle for the stage win in a sprint into Revel. Read about Stage 10, Tour de France 2016

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: sights and attractions on the route

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Vielha Val d'Aran

Vielha Val d'Aran

Vielha Val d'Aran, by Alberto Gonzalez Rovira, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Vielha Val d'Aran is the capital of the Val d'Aran, Catalonia, Spain. Its altitude is 974m. Vielha has a population of about 4,000. The church is dedicated to Sant Miquel.

The Val d'Aran is the only part of Catalonia on the northern side of the Pyrenees. According to Val d'Aran's tourist website, it has 'abundant hanging valleys', which must be nice. The source of the Garonne is in the Val d'Aran. The name Aran comes from the Basque haran, meaning valley.

The Val d'Aran has a history of autonomy, dating back to 1313, when such priviledges were granted by James II of Aragon. The tradition of autonomous government continues to an extent today.

The people here speak Spanish, Aranese, and/or Catalan. Aranese is a Gascon variety of the Occitan language, also traditionally spoken in southern France. 

The main parts of the economy  are tourism (including skiing), forestry, and agriculture.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: la Seu d'Urgell

la Seu d'Urgell

La Seu d'Urgell, by jqmj (Queralt), Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

La Seu d'Urgell is in Catalonia, Spain, and is the capital of the Alt Urgell comarca. It's at the confluence of the Segre and Valira rivers.

The name comes from the Latin sedes urgell, meaning the seat of someone (from pre-Roman times) called Urgell.

La Seu d'Urgell hosted the canoe and kayak events at the Barcelona Summer Olympics in 1992, and the facility still exists - the Parc Olimpic del Segre.

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Andorra la Vella

Andorra la Vella, river Valira

Andorra la Vella, by Keith Laverack, Flickr, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Andorra la Vella (meaning 'Andorra the Old') is the capital of the Principality of Andorra, and has a population of 22,256. It merges into Escaldes-Engordany. 

Andorra la Vella's altitude - 1,023m - makes it the highest capital in Europe. It's a ski resort, and tourism is the biggest industry here. It also earns foreign currency from its status as a tax haven. Furniture and brandy are produced here.

The site has been inhabited since late Neolithic times. It was one of the Marca Hispanica created by Charlemagne in the C8th. It has been Andorra's capital since 1278, when French and Episcopal princes agreed to joint sovereignty. 

Andorra has been something of a backwater, historically. An informal system of democracy developed in the 1930s, formalised by a constitution in 1993.

The Romanesque church of Sant Esteve is in the centre of Andorra la Vella, and dates from the C11th.

Andorra la Vella, Sant Esteve church

Andorra la Vella, Sant Esteve church, by Alex Alishevskikh, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Stage 9, Tour de France: Ordino

Ordino

Ordino, by Giorgio Minguzzi, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Ordino is a town which sits just south west of the Pics de Casamanya (2740m), and the Parc Natural de la Vall de Sorteny.

Ordino is home to the National Auditorum of Andorra, and hosts classical music concerts in October during the International Narciso Yepes Festival. (Narciso Yepes was a guitarist who started the concerts).

Stage 9, Tour de France 2016: Andorra Arcalis

Arcalis, Andorra

Arcalis (Andorra), by Asier Sarasua Aranberri, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Andorra Arcals a ski resort at 2,240m, and part of the linked Vall Nord ski area, which also includes the resorts of Arinsal and Pal.

Vielha Val d'AranRafting at LlavorsiVall d'Aneu

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