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Decades from now, the Tour de France history books will list stage 8 of the 2021 Tour for the stage win of Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious). But hardcore fans of the sport will forever remember Saturday’s stage for the heroics of Tadej Pogačar, who rode his rivals off his wheel on the short and mountainous stage to put a stranglehold on the Tour’s yellow jersey.
Pogačar destroyed Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma, and the other squads in the Tour on Saturday, blowing everyone away on the Col de Romme with 30km remaining in the stage. Pogačar soared, Richard Carapaz fought on in vain, and behind, Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič saw their runs at yellow melt away.
Here’s what the stars said after the explosive and thrilling stage 8 of the Tour de France.
Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), 44th at 21:47
Van der Poel’s time in yellow finally came to an end on the wet and mountainous stage, and to be fair, he held the Tour de France race lead much longer than most pundits could have predicted. But van der Poel simply did not have the legs to follow the attacks on Saturday, and Pogačar’s thrilling move spelled an end to his time in yellow. After the stage, van der Poel said he was not yet sure if he’d finish the Tour de France or not. After all, he has the 2021 Tokyo Olympics coming up.
“I realized early on the stage I wouldn’t keep the jersey,’ he said. “But I’m happy with how I felt today, also uphill. My Le Tour de France has already been a success. I’d prefer to race until Paris, I like it here. But we also have to consider my other goals. We’ll make a decision on the rest day.”
Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Team Emirates), 4th at 0:49
Stage 8 was the stage of Pogačar’s brilliance, and we will be talking about his attack on the Col de Romme for years to come. At the finish line, Pogačar hinted at what many of us had thought for a few days now — that his best defense against his rivals was to simply attack, and put them to the sword early. That’s exactly what he did.
“After yesterday, everyone was racing against us — today I went all-in to make a gap, because I know it will be like this every day — they will try to take some time off of me – today I had opportunity to take time, attack is the best defense,” he said. “Maybe it was a little bit from yesterday (why he attacked) — I don’t know if every mountain stage if I will be attacking, probably not — this first week was very demanding, tomorrow is very hard stage, we will do our best to defend and we will ride defensive from now on.”
David Brailsford, Ineos Grenadiers, Team Principal
Kudos to our colleagues at Dutch cycling wesite Wielerflits.nl for grabbing Ineos Grenadiers’ Principal David Brailsford at the finish of stage 8. You can read the full interview here. Brailsford saw his two GC hopes, Geraint Thomas and Richard Carapaz, suffer huge setbacks on stage 8. Thomas’ run at the yellow jersey officially ended, as the Brit was dropped on an uncategorized climb early in the race. Then, Carapaz tried valiantly to mark Pogačar, only to fade and lose more than 3 minutes.
““I think we have to go way back in cycling history to find a comparable performance. Tadej deserves all the credits. He is on a different level than any of his competitors. You also have to have the courage to start such an action at 34 kilometers from the finish. I have a lot of respect for that.”
“When I see how they raced to Le Creusot on Friday and Le Grand Bornand on Saturday, it’s unbelievable. These kinds of rides require a lot of strength from everyone. If everyone continues to race with this intensity in the rest of the Tour, I wonder who will be left in two weeks. I don’t think we’ve seen such a tough Tour in recent years. That can make it very exciting. We are going to look at this Tour from day to day from now on. A lot can still happen. We will definitely continue to fight.”
Grischa Niermann, Jumbo-Visma, Team DS
Niermann is the lead DS at Jumbo-Visma, and like the rest of the Dutch team’s management he has watched the 2021 Tour de France unfold in a disappointing way. On Friday Primož Roglič fell out of contention. And on Saturday, Sepp Kuss and Wout van Aert attacked, only to see their respective moves come up short.
“We knew it would be a hard start. But the whole stage was ridden at a furious pace, in bad weather,” Niermann said. “In the final you saw how everyone was suffering. I think it went quite well, Sepp was in the breakaway, but then unfortunately on the first long descent Jonas [Vingegaard] crashed. Hew was OK, but of course a crash is never good. Then, on the Col de Romme, everything blew apart and Pogačar showed once again today that he’s in a class of his own and went solo. Rather than fight for the yellow jersey, there was nothing to do against Pogačar. That was really an impressive performance.”
Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe), 17th at 4:09
Kelderman survived the early attacks to stay in the main group of favorites. While he was briefly dropped on the Col de Romme, and missed a chance to chase Pogačar, Kelderman hung tough and caught back on, eventually finishing alongside Carpaz and the other GC favorites, 4:09 behind the stage winner. He now sits in 7th place on GC, 5:13 down.
“It was all day fast, and it took a long time before the early break had gone, and actually I felt good all day,” Kelderman said. “Then, actually, the second to last climb they speeded up and then I was in the group behind. Pogačar was unbelievably strong but I felt also good in the group behind that group.”