Amazingly it was only included for the first time as recently as 2007. I was fortunate and happy to have climbed it that same summer, two months after the Tour had suffered over it. The road was still graffiti'd in hopes and heroes. Half way up the climb Didi the Devil's pitchforks poked at our tires just as the road kicked up and the real devil - the first of several kilometers at 10-plus percent - bit at your legs like a feral dog.
Today the Port de Balès was only beautiful if you were named Thomas and you were racing away from the field in your National Tricolor (or you were exhuberant club rider and busting your friends in the final couple K's - the memory is still sweet!) for the rest of the peloton the Port de Balès is over an hour of suffering with the boys at the back of the bus and avoiding the hawking voiture balai.
Chapeau to former rouge contender Anthony Roux, you caught an express bus and made up 15 minutes over the Port de Balès, building a buffer for the next two killer stages and left the temporary honor of Lanterne Rouge to the HTC-Columbia rider from Germany Bert Grabsch. Also making a return to the rouge race is Stage 10 laster Adriano Malori (Lampre-Farnese Vini).
Rest up guys, tomorrow's stage is why Henri Desgrange invented to the voiture balai - broom wagon. The voiture's siren will sing, but resist, the rest day is only 5 Cols and 199.5 kms in the distance - just be delighted you aren't a century earlier, the day would be 326km long, 0ver 14 hours in the saddle.
Backing up a full half hour for today's Rouge Report - they will all play a roll in the next two days:
|157||David Millar (GBr) Garmin - Transitions||2:57:19|
|158||Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo Bank||2:58:21|
|159||Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank||2:58:39|
|160||Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale||2:59:16|
|161||Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test Team||2:59:19|
|162||Iban Mayoz Echeverria (Spa) Footon-Servetto||2:59:24|
|163||Daniel Lloyd (GBr) Cervelo Test Team||2:59:45|
|164||Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi||3:00:54|
|165||Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo||3:01:12|
|166||Jeremy Hunt (GBr) Cervelo Test Team||3:01:58|
|167||Robbie McEwen (Aus) Team Katusha||3:04:23|
|168||Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini||3:05:13|
|169||Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test Team||3:10:38|
|170||Marcus Burghardt (Ger) BMC Racing Team||3:14:48|
|171||Anthony Roux (Fra) Française des Jeux||3:14:59|
|172||Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) Team Radioshack||3:16:17|
|173||Adriano Malori (Ita) Lampre-Farnese Vini||3:25:06|
|174||Bert Grabsch (Ger) Team HTC - Columbia||3:27:07|