2016 Tour de France

Stage 8: Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon

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.

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Froome claims yellow with downhill attack

Chris Froome put his descending skills on display en route to a stage 8 victory. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

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.

2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Into the mountains
Stage 8 took the Tour peloton 184 kilometers from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Up, up, up
A high tempo in the bunch kept things gruppo compatto for the first hour. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Majka and Pinot
Rafal Majka and Thibaut Pinot initiated the day’s main breakaway. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Martin
Tony Martin jumped clear of the bunch to bridge to the two Frenchmen up the road. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Van Avermaet
The high speeds of the early afternoon saw race leader Greg Van Avermaet quickly dropped, leaving the yellow jersey up for grabs. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Escapees
The trio up front worked hard to maintain an advantage, but the mountainous parcours had the GC teams going full gas. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Sky train
Team Sky took control in the pack. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Pyrenees
The challenging ups and downs took a toll on the peloton. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Whittled down
The GC men ultimately swept up the escapees, but the “peloton” that hit the final climb was greatly reduced. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Alert
Nairo Quintana was sure to keep an eye on Chris Froome and anyone else attempting to attack. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: On the move
Froome delivered the surprise of the day when he attacked on the descent that followed the final climb. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Staying clear
A moment’s hesitation from his rivals was all Froome needed to open a gap. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Victory
Froome held out solo off the front all the winning to the line, taking the win with a 13-second advantage to most of the other top contenders. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Contador
Alberto Contador had another rough day, getting dropped from the favorites group and finishing over a minute and a half down on Chris Froome. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: New leader
Chris Froome’s banner day earned him the overall race lead. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
2016 Tour de France, stage 8: Polka dots
Rafal Majka’s hard work in the breakaway earned him the king of the mountains jersey. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com