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2011 Tour De France, Stage Nine Preview: Field Enters Rocky Terrain Before Rest Day

Editor's Note: Stage Nine Results HERE

The 2011 Tour De France heads into the first of two rest days with a stage that features a lot climbs and descents that will probably be murder on the legs. Stage nine is a 208-kilometer trek from Issoire to Saint-Flour and features the first ever ascent of the Col de Perthus. The trek features eight climbs that includes three category twos, three category threes and two category fours. Sylvain Chavanel won a similar stage last year and will be a favorite to emerge victorious on Sunday.

While the mountains of southeastern France and Switzerland are where the Tour De France will really be won or lost, Levi Leipheimer will look to catch an early break to emerge with the front of the pack. Leipheimer has run into horrendous luck as he has dropped to 4:43 back of the lead. At this point he is looking to help teammate Andreas Kloden who sits in fourth place, ten seconds back of the yellow jersey.

Stage nine will start at 5:00am pacific on VERSUS. NBCSports.com will continue to provide a live online stream via subscription service.

We'll be here for the entire race providing news updates and stage previews and recaps, particularly as they relate to Bay Area cyclist Levi Leipheimer. For more in-depth discussion on the 2011 Tour De France, head over to Podium Cafe. For more general Tour coverage, head over to the SB Nation story stream.