97 km Of the men breaking away, Kroon (Rabobank) is the best placed...16'22" down though in 108th. Landaluze (Euskaltel) is 20'18" behind with Simeoni 30'03" down.
100 km Kroon speeds away from the head of the peloton....but the front pair now 2'50" ahead of the peloton and yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler.
105 km Here comes the first sprint...O'Grady shooting away from McEwen...but McEwen takes his fellow Australian on the climb at Gentioux...good points for the Lotto-Domo rider.
14:54 Landaluze and Simeoni both away still...they've now got 1'48" over the peloton....and showing no sign of letting up.
115 km Landaluze and Simeoni stretching the lead out to more than a minute.
14:35 33 riders from AG2R, Quick Step, US Postal and CSC were drug tested by the UCI this morning and declared fit to race.
122 km Landaluze (Euskaltel) and Simeoni (Domina Vacanza) break away...and the peloton don't seem too interested in bringing them back in.
126 km Seems the climb has been too much for Jaan Kirsipuu (AG2R)who has pulled out of the Tour...Stage 1 winner, but won't be stepping onto the podium again this year.
126 km The first climb of the day, the Côte de la Croix de Mapertuis...Virenque first over, with Mayo (Euskaltel) and Gonzalez de Galdeano (Liberty Seguros) taking the rest of the points.
14:13 A group of around 20 riders launch an attack...build up a lead of around 100m...but US Postal accelerate the pace of the peloton and pull them back.
138 km Virenque decides he's not that inspired today and lets the peloton swallow him up.
14:00 Virenque pursues Halgand...blows past him and now builds a thirteen seconds lead...the Quick Step rider is a man who can go all the way by himself if he feels inspired.
146 km Halgand (Credit Agricole), Sio (Phonak) and Peron (CSC) on the attack...a group of eight - including Virenque (Quick Step) - chase after them...and the peloton comes back to them.
148 km Into the village of Bujaleuf, and the peloton moving at a decent pace...they don't seem to be in the mood to let the breakaways stay away for too long.
149 km A NEW BREAK! Extebarria (Euskaltel) and Serrano (Liberty Seguros) head another break...Voigt (CSC), Becke (Iles Baleares) and Sunderland (Alessio) follow....but the peloton reacts quickly to bring them back.
159 km AN IMMEDIATE ATTACK!! Eight riders - including yellow jersey Thomas Voeckler(Brioche-la-Boulangere) - but they are quickly reeled back in. Jens Voigt (CSC) was also in that attempt to escape the peloton's clutches.
160 km There are 173 riders left in this year's Tour - three non-starters today: Samuel Dumoulin (AG2R), as well as Stefano Casagranda (SAE) and Martin Hvastija (ALB) sent home after being implicated in an Italian police doping investigation.
160 km Race director Jean Marie Leblanc waves the white flag for the real start of the stage.
160 km The weather is better than earlier in the week. There is still the threat of showers, but just light rain is forecast and the temperature is a mild 20 degrees.
160 km Well, here we go...Stage 9 gets underway.
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11:12 Today's tough, twisty stage appears to be set for a breakaway, and it could well be ther ever-active CSC team that does the damage. Eurosport cycling commentator David Harmon believes that by the end of the day Voeckler might not have to worry about the pressure of the yellow jersey any more...
Stage 9 preview
11:06 THOMAS VOECKLER on the downside of the yellow jersey: "I am very happy to wear the jersey, of course, but at the same time I am overcome by the enormity of what is happening. Sometimes, when I return to my room, I have the impression that I can no longer control the way the day unfolds. I no longer have time for myself, and I am used to leading a normal life without too much fuss."
10:24 LANCE ARMSTRONG on the threat posed by Jan Ullrich: "We still fear Ullrich the most. He is the one with the most experience and the most desire to succeed this year. To me, he is the biggest threat, that's the one we'll watch the closest. I would not want to be in the reverse position, with having to make up a minute on a rider like Ullrich so... We have a bit of a cushion, so we can be more conservative in the mountains and we'll see what happens".
10:22 CSC's JENS VOIGT on stage nine: "It's a very hard stage. I've already done it few times in the Tour du Milousin. It's going up and down, it's not little hills but long climbs and it's the start of difficulties. It's going to be difficult for sprinters' teams, and I think it's going to be very hard for the team 'La Boulangere' to retain the yellow jersey."
10:01 Tour director JEAN-MARIE LEBLANC on the Casagrande and Hvastija doping scandal: "The information does not come from a press source, but is signed by a financial investigators in Padova, therefore we have to take it into account. We don't want any dubious riders to jeopardise the serenity of competition, so we have to stick to our principles and exclude them from the race."
09:30 Good morning and welcome to Eurosport.com's live coverage of stage nine of the Tour de France. The action gets under way at 13:30 CET, but stay with us before then for news and opinions from the peloton!