Preview — Tour de France, stage 8
Stage 8 will effectively see a second consecutive valley finish, with 14 kilometers separating the top of the Col du Peyresourde from the streets of Bagnères-de-Luchon. Once again, ASO is hoping the route’s design will lead to attacking racing rather than stages (and the overall) being decided by a single knockout punch. Nevertheless, this is still a difficult mountain stage that takes in some previously unused sections of road. Following the ascent of the Tourmalet, the riders will head for the Col de Val Louron-Azet via the ascent of the Hourquette d’Ancizan, which has never previously been tackled from this direction. The riders will remember it.
Froome claims yellow with downhill attack
BAGNÈRES-DE-LUCHON, France (AFP) — Defending champion Chris Froome won the eighth stage of the Tour de France and grabbed hold of the overall race lead on Saturday. The Sky rider jumped clear of a small group of favorites just after cresting the day’s final climb, the Col de Val Louron-Azet, and opened up a gap on his rivals with a masterful descent to the finish.
Dan Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) led the chasers over the line 13 seconds behind stage winner Froome, with Katusha’s Joaquím Rodríguez nabbing third in the 184-kilometer stage from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
With previous race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) finishing a long way back, Froome now sits atop the general classification with a 16-second advantage over Adam Yates (Orica – Bike Exchange), with Rodríguez in third by the same margin.
Top 10, stage 8
- 1. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, in 4:57:33
- 2. Daniel MARTIN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :13
- 3. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, TEAM KATUSHA, at :13
- 4. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :13
- 5. Roman KREUZIGER, TINKOFF, at :13
- 6. Fabio ARU, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :13
- 7. Adam YATES, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at :13
- 8. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :13
- 9. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :13
- 10. Richie PORTE, BMC RACING TEAM, at :13
Top 10 overall
- 1. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, in 39:13:04
- 2. Adam YATES, ORICA-BIKEEXCHANGE, at :16
- 3. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, TEAM KATUSHA, at :16
- 4. Daniel MARTIN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at :17
- 5. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :19
- 6. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :23
- 7. Fabio ARU, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at :23
- 8. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC RACING TEAM, at :23
- 9. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at :23
- 10. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :23
With the peloton sustaining a very high pace in the early goings, it took more than an hour for the day’s main breakaway to escape. Finally, once the climb of the monstrous Tourmalet began, FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot and Tinkoff’s Rafal Majka got away before Tony Martin (Etixx – Quick-Step) bridged up to the two climbers to make for a trio of escapees off the front.
Froome’s Sky squad set pace at the front of the peloton for much for the day, which quickly dropped Van Avermaet into a group of stragglers going rapidly backwards, leaving yellow up for grabs.
The Tourmalet took its toll with 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) also dropped and Michael Morkov (Tinkoff), who had been struggling ever since crashing on the opening stage, being forced to abandon, the first rider to quit the Tour this year at an unprecedentedly late stage.
The leading trio were brought back 43km from the end, on the penultimate climb of the day, as Movistar and Sky took turns setting a fierce tempo at the front of the peloton.
When a Sky-led peloton reached the final climb, there were only 30 riders left in the lead group. With 17km left, less than 2km from the climb’s summit, Froome put in a dig, followed by Dan Martin. The move whittled the pack down considerably, but it was not enough to drop top rivals like Movistar’s Nairo Quintana or Astana’s Fabio Aru.
However, just as the lead group went over the final climb, Froome darted clear and began a solo descent to the line.
“It wasn’t really planned. I thought I’d give it a try in the downhill as the few tries on the climb didn’t work out,” said Froome. “They were sticking to us so I decided to give it a go in the descent. It was cool.”
The plan worked to perfection, as Froome managed to navigate the twists and turns of the final downhill kilometers with aplomb, holding on to a modest gap over the rest of the GC hopefuls and then nabbing 10 bonus seconds with the stage victory.
“Bike racing is just fun, but maybe I spent a little bit too much energy – tomorrow is a hard stage but I take every second I can,” he said.
Sunday’s stage 9 is indeed a difficult one. Froome will hope for another strong performance in the mountains as the peloton rides 184.5km from Vielha Val d’Aran in Spain to the Arcalis resort in Andorra.