Thanks for joining me today, I'll see you tomorrow for the downhill smash to Albi!
Saint-Étienne - Brioude
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Jan Tratnik took third in the sprint against Naesen, fourth, and Jasper Stuyven, fifth. Roche finished a further four seconds down.
The peloton have nine kilometres still to go and are currently being led by Team Ineos. They'll want to get Thomas and Bernal to the finish in safety.
That was imperious stuff from Impey. He knew he had it and waited for Benoot to go before easily blowing by him. That's a first Tour de France stage win for the South African national champion on his seventh participation in the race.
Impey is more than equal to that sprint from Benoot. He hits the jets and overtakes the Belgian easily. He points to the South Africa flag on his chest and celebrates as he crosses the line!
They are in the finishing straight. Benoot launches!
They hit the flamme rouge.
Benoot senses the urgency and takes a turn on the front.
The chasing group including Naesen, Stuyven and Soler is 14 seconds behind Benoot and Impey. The two leaders can't let up here or they'll be caught.
5,000 metres stand between Impey and Benoot and the glory of a Bastille Day stage win in the Tour de France.
The Bardet trio has been caught by the peloton.
Bardet has Porte and a Jumbo Visma rider for company. Meanwhile, Benoot continues to sandbag Impey.
The AG2R leader is on the hunt for time gained, rather than the stage win. That horse bolted some time ago...
Bardet attacks from the peloton.
Romain is going for glory in his hometown!
Roche blows up. The small incline has done for the Irishman.
Benoot and Roche are leaning on Impey here. They know he's the fastest finisher of the three and they are going to try and force him to lead them all the way down to the line.
They have a small 1km rise to contend with after a brief drop from the summit of the Cote de Saint-Just before they hurtle the last 9km to the finish line.
Impey blew right by Tratnik there and he's now leading this trio at the head of the bike race. The South African looks brilliant here!
Impey jumps away from Stuyven and Naesen in an attempt to bridge to Tratnik.
The leading pair still have 1.5km to the summit and they are giving it some serious welly. Pain is writ large across both faces.
It's Roche and Benoot together, a few bike lengths ahead of Tratnik. Behind him are Naesen, Impey and Stuyven.
Soler is pedalling squares. His long chase to get in the break this morning taking its toll?
And the catch is made. Benoot immediately seizes on the chance to counter. Followed in short order by Nicolas Roche.
Postlberger is grinding up this climb. 3km to the top for the burly baroudeur and we can see the chasers barely 50m behind.
Here's the Cote de Saint-Just. The Galibier, it ain't.
It's Benoot, Tratnik, Stuyven, Impey, Soler, Naesen and Roche who are chasing down Postlberger. With the other erstwhile escapees a further 10 seconds back.
Postlberger continues alone and he's losing time rapidly now.
Cortina, Clarke and Herrada have lost contact with the chasers.
Just under 10km until Postlberger tackles the final climb and he's built his gap to 55 seconds. He's beginning to believe and we are here too.
It's 40 seconds between Postlberger and the break. With the peloton a further 12 minutes in arrears.
Juan Antonio Flecha has just pointed out that the part of the course Postlberger is on currently is much more open and exposed to the headwind. That'll make the Austrian's life a lot more difficult as a lone rider.
Postlberger is benefiting right now from a lack of cooperation in the chase, as they all look at each other to do the heavy lifting. We'll see whether he comes unstuck on the day's penultimate climb, which peaks at 13 km from the finish line.
It's about 15 seconds between Postlberger and the other riders chasing. Tony Martin has pulled that quartet we mentioned back to the rest, so now it's 14 vs 1 in the battle for this prestigious Bastille Day stage win.
The gap to the Deceuninck-led peloton is still 10 minutes, if you're wondering, and we don't expect that to change any time soon.
Postlberger is solo with a small gap, while behind him a group of ten riders is chasing him down. Martin, Sicard and Delaplace are also adrift with Boasson Hagen.
More shots being fired in the breakaway. This time it's Edvald Boasson Hagen in trouble off the back as Lukas Postlberger piles on the pressure. The Austrian rider has a Giro stage win to his name but would love to add a Tour de France victory to his palmares.
Marc Soler and Jesus Herrada are both extremely talented climbers, but I'm not sure if there's enough elevation gain left in the stage for them to make their advantage pay.
Other riders invested in keeping this break together until a sprint include Eddy Boss, the Norwegian puncheur for Dimension Data and Trek Segafredo's Jasper Stuyven. Oliver Naesen also packs a very nippy finish, while Daryl Impey, Tiesj Benoot and even Lukas Postlberger would probably prefer to shell out a few riders on the final climb of the day.
Here's the full list of breakaway riders.
Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora-Hansgrohe), Oliver Naesen (AG2R-La Mondiale), Ivan Garcia Cortina and Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida), Tony Martin (Jumbo-Visma), Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Tiejs Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), Romain Sicard (Total Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa-Samsic) and Marc Soler (Movistar).
Gap is still 10 minutes. No interest in bringing this back yet from the peloton.
After some skirmishing, there has been a regrouping in the escape. All 15 men are still there. Ivan Garcia Cortina is clearly the protected of the two riders from Bahrain Merida and Jan Tratnik seems to have bee given a free role to attack and create some chaos. Cortina, who can finish very quickly, will follow wheels and bank on there being a sprint.
After Vicenzo Nibali lost big time on GC, the men in red and gold will be looking for opportunities to grab some stage wins from this Tour de France and they look to be in a good position.
And finally we're seeing some pace. Daryl Impey takes two irrelevant KOM points over the summit and puts the hammer down, which immediately strings out the breakaway.
The injection of speed from Impey prompts a counter from Jan Tratnik and Simon Clarke, which is currently being chased down by Tiesj Benoot and Oliver Naesen.
🎶🎶 All together now... 🎶🎶
Fun fact! This Col is named after the popular 2000s indie band who performed Made-Up Lovesong #43....
The break is on the Category 3 Côte des Guillaumanches. Will we see someone attack here from long range? Tony Martin is one possible candidate. He stands less than no chance in a sprint finish against the likes of Edvald Boasson Hagen and Jasper Stuyven so must go for it from a long way out.
Rumours that the water in this cannon is not, in fact, Vittel, but the lesser-known vintage 'l'eau de tap'...
Feeding time for the riders. Musettes are taken on and goodies shared out. It seems the peloton has safely navigated that one.
Kasper Asgreen is leading the peloton down a short descent at the moment. The young Dane is a prodigious talent enjoying a fantastic breakthrough year. He's capable of tackling the shorter climbs with the best and also mixing with the sprinters on lumpier finishes. He also took a third place on GC in the Amgen Tour of California earlier this year, as well as taking second at the Tour of Flanders.
You get the sense he might not be doing the Grand Tour pace-making for much longer in his career.
The Côte des Guillaumanches begins at 72 kilometres to go. It's a long climb and reaches just over 1,100m elevation. However, the average gradient is a piddling 4.1% and it seems very unlikely to cause much upset in either the break or the peloton.
Deceuninck are working on the front of the peloton, while the gap is extremely stable at 10'20".
The break is working well together, taking on plenty of fluid from the support cars on this scorching hot French summer day.
An incredible statistic here about everybody's favourite Slovakian.
In France, the fans police the fans...
Plus ça change.
The race is crossing a plateau and will bounce along at roughly 700m above sea level until we begin the Côte des Guillaumanches.
The gap is still 10 minutes. Rui Costa is only just being caught by the peloton after a very long time on his own in the liminal space twixt bunch and break.
Tiesj Benoot is in the break today for Lotto Soudal. His squadare having a spectacular Tour so far, with Tim Wellens in polka dots and Thomas De Gendt claiming the stage yesterday in spectacular fashion.
Can Tiesj add to Tom 'n' Tim's triumphs to triple the team's Tour total today?
Where do you stand on the running debate. Are you a mankini-wearing numpty or a roadside vigilante?
In terms of the general classification, Nicolas Roche is the best placed rider in the breakaway. He's about half an hour down though, so I doubt Julian Alaphilippe will be too concerned about losing the maillot jaune.
That does prompt the question of who, if anyone, might chase the breakaway to bring this back together for a bunch finish? Sunweb, Bora and Bahrain - three teams in pursuit of the green jersey - all have representation in the escape. As do Jumbo-Visma, who might otherwise have been looking at a stage win through Wout Van Aert.
The gap is over ten minutes now. It's over, I reckon.
With about a quarter of the stage already completed, the gap stands at 9'08" and the odds have swung hugely to favour the breakaway. Rui Costa appears to have abandoned his long and fruitless effort to bridge across.
I'd characterise this pace as 'sedate' at the moment.
Soler is in the break now, while Rui Costa continues to chase. The poor Portuguese is going to be absolutely tuckered out when he does finally make the junction.
We're seeing the initials PLP daubed all over the roads here. Presumably that's some French supporters showing their love for Pierre-Luc Perichon, rather than the Parliamentary Labour Party...
It's been a determined effort from Soler here. He's closed the gap to 45 seconds to the break. The Spaniard is a fantastic climber and could easily bridge up to them on the Mur, who look to be spinning up pretty easily.
Rui Costa meanwhile is making less progress. One wonders if his heart is really in it.
The leaders are not sitting up and waiting for Rui Costa and Marc Soler. The gap is up to six minutes now and they have started the first ramps of the day's first proper test.
Couple of kilometres now until the Mur d'Aurec-sur-Loire. Strap your seatbelts on lads, it's going to get bumpy!
Your full list of leaders:
Lukas Pöstlberger (Bora Hansgrohe), Oliver Naesen (AG2R La Mondiale), Ivan Garcia Cortina & Jan Tratnik (Bahrain Merida), Tony Martin (Jumbo Visma), Simon Clarke (EF Education First), Darryl Impey (Mitchelton Scott), Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo), Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) and Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa Samsic).
And in the gap between them and the peloton are Marc Soler (Movistar) and Rui Costa (UAE Team Emirates).
We're pleased to hear from his team that De Marchi was conscious when was put into the ambulance.
And I think that's it! A break of about 15 riders has got free of the peloton and their advantage is going up towards a minute. The peloton has slowed things up.
Marc Soler has just darted out of the bunch to try and bridge up.
Among the leaders are: Roche, Naesen, Impey, Garcia Cortina, Herrada, Clarke, Benoot, Sicard, Delaplace
Romain Bardet is racing to his hometown today and had this to say before the stage talking to France Televisions.
" I’m very well. It’s going to be an unforgettable day. It doesn’t often happen to have a Tour de France stage at hometown. I’ll profit from it as much as I can. I’ll take the following stages as they’ll come and trust my instinct. That’s how I succeeded in the Tour de France in the past."
Politt has been taken back by the peloton and now we're seeing a proper battle to get in the break. Wout Van Aert is up there, as are riders from Sunweb and CCC Team.
Confirmed. De Marchi abandons the race and is in an ambulance on his way to hospital. Let's hope he's ok.
Big crash for Alessandro De Marchi. He looks in a bad way, laid almost flat out on the pavement.
One of the key protagonists in yesterday's stage, it looks as though the Italian breakway maestro may not continue. Alexis Vuillermoz was also involved, but the AG2R rider is up and on his feet.
And we're off! Nils Politt of Katusha Alpecin attacks from the gun and right now he's off the front on his own.
Katusha announced two days ago that they will not continue in their current guise next season, telling their riders they are free to go out and look for contracts elsewhere. The received wisdom goes that the best way to try and secure a contract is to get yourself in the break and 'put yourself in the shop window'.
Is that what Politt is doing here? How better to get your CV out than a solo 171km breakaway.
We're hearing that Yoann Offredo has crashed in the neutralised zone. The poor chap has not had the best couple of days, after just barely making yesterday's time cut due to illness. And he only managed that with a little bit of help...
Meanwhile, in the velodrome...
The peloton has rolled out from the depart fictif in St Etienne and they are trundling towards the real start. It's looking pretty relaxed up at the front of the peloton.
It's a gently downhill beginning to the stage, before they start the bumpy stuff about 10km in. Then at 36km we have the Category 1 climb of the Mur d'Aurec-sur-Loire. It's a brutal introduction to the stage, with 3.2km at 10%.
It was a beautiful win from Thomas De Gendt, and an equally exciting move in the final kilometres from two Frenchmen, Julian Alaphilippe and Thibaut Pinot. Alaphilippe seized back yellow and Pinot put himself onto the podium places.
All in all, a thrilling spectacle and a great advert for this fine sport of bicycle racing. Here's hoping for more of the same today...
Before we get into what's on the menu for this stage, let's take a moment to relive yesterday's almighty medium mountain magic.
Afternoon everyone and welcome to live blog for the ninth stage of the Tour de France. We're heading from St Etienne where we finished yesterday to Brioude, birthplace of a certain Monsieur Bardet.
If that weren't enough of an incentive for the Frenchman to give it a go, it's also Bastille Day... always an incredibly prestigious stage and much sought-after among the home riders in the peloton.