The Tour de France roared into life in a dramatic day in the Pyrénées on Saturday.
Nans Peters (Ag2r-La Mondiale) took an impressive victory on stage 8 of the race having been in the break all day, but his win was overshadowed by the action in the GC group behind as haymakers flew and favorites faultered.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) hung tough under a barrage of attacks from his rivals through the final of three major mountain passes to retain his GC lead, while Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) attacked to claw back 40 seconds on his rivals having lost over one minute in crosswinds on Friday.
It was drama again for Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), who cracked to lose 25 minutes, his race now over, while Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) also blew up to lose over 11 minutes. Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) also suffered, losing two minutes.
There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s roundtable!
With a rest day coming Monday, can Yates survive Sunday’s second mountain stage with his yellow jersey intact?
Jim Cotton (@jim_c_1985): I think so. He may have looked sluggish in responding to the moves Saturday, but he stayed cool and held his own pace to shut down threats. Perhaps the most important takeaway regards Yates is that he kept the composure to counter those moves despite being alone. And if Chaves and Nieve last further into the stage Sunday than they did today, he’s got some top-tier support riders to help.
Fred Dreier (@freddreier): Yes. Sunday’s stage, while hard, does not deliver a knockout punch, so Yates should have the legs to claw back whoever attacks on the final climb. I see Yates holding yellow until stage 15 in the Alps.
Ben Delaney: While he certainly didn’t look invincible today, he showed calm and resilience in pacing himself back up after attacks. I bet that he will get through tomorrow in yellow, and then will be safe for the next few flat to rolling stages until the summit finish on stage 13.
Other than Peters, Yates, and Pogačar, who are the major winners from today?
Fred: I think that Miguel Angel Lopez, Rigoberto Urán, and Guillaume Martin are all big winners today, because there were lingering questions about whether or not they could follow the biggest attacks in the high mountains, and all three of them rode extremely well. Martin was strong enough to attack, Urán showed he’s rebounded from the broken collarbone, and Lopez seemed to follow the wheels with ease. I’d say Saturday’s stage showed that all three are strong and ready for the decisive moments of the race.
Ben: All the GC guys who finished with Yates: Roglič — who I see winning the Tour — and the Colombian quartet of Bernal, Quintana, Urán, and Lopez.
Jim: If I was to say one, it would be Quintana. ‘Nairoman’ is looking sparky and aggressive and launched some big moves on the final climb. Plus after a good ride in the crosswinds Friday, he’s got the wind at his sails. If I’m going for two, it’s got to be Bernal as well. He’s getting his head down and getting it done, and never looks troubled.
Does Pinot have what it takes to ever succeed at the Tour?
Ben: To win it overall? Nope. He’s fun to watch, but he hasn’t shown the top-end consistency needed to stand on the podium in Paris.
Jim: I hate to say it but – ‘no.’ Pinot has got the legs, but after having his heart broken twice, I think he’s always going to have something dark lurking in the back of his mind at the Tour. He said himself that today was a turning point in his career. Exactly what that means, who knows, but it was terrible to see Pinot out of the race after similar happened in 2019.
Fred: I suppose that depends on your definition of ‘succeed.’ Will he win the overall? No, probably not. Will he win stages, dazzle the hearts and minds of millions of French fans, and become a Tour de France celebrity who will always have a well-paying job in French cycling? Yes.