Tour de France Stage 8

Straight from kilometer 0 to the Flamme Rouge, there were non-stop attacks, breaks and chases. In the end, there were two riders dueling it on into Station des Rousses in a battle to the death. Or the cramp.

As soon as the flag was waved for the 187.5km stage to Station des Rousses, there were attacks from names slightly bigger than you would usually see. Alexis Vuillermoz was the first attacker, while the peloton was splintering on the flats out of Dole. Marco Marcato attempted to go solo before being reeled back in. Chavanel, Bettiol and Brambilla made a group at around kilometre 9, and were joined by yesterday’s runner-up Edvald Boasson Hagen. The attack lasted 5km.

Chavanel went again as soon as they were caught (he attacked a total of 6 times), this time followed by Greg van Avermaet and Alexey Lutsenko. Up the climb near Arcois (which was uncategorised even though it was relatively long and steep), that breakaway was caught; after which – you guessed it – Sylvain Chavanel – attacked again with Pauwels. Durasek, Keukeleire and Cyril Lemoine attempted to bridge to the leading duo before the intermediate sprint, but the peloton was all together by the time Montrond was on the horizon.

Arnaud Demare had been dropped long before the sprint point into Montrond. Apparently sick heading into today’s stage, he was paced by two team mates the whole way through the stage to barely avoid the time limit. With 2nd place in the classification unable to contest, this gave Marcel Kittel a golden opportunity to open his lead. However, his plans were foiled Lotto’s Greipel who looked decisive throughout the sprint and fast-finishing Matthews.

After the intermediate sprint, there were more attacks. Frank, Sutterlin, Burghardt and Lemoine attacked at kilometre 50, and were caught 21 minutes later around 21 kilometers up the road. After that break was caught, the peloton started to splinter on the climbs. Team Sky were setting a hard pace in the peloton, but still riders were attacking. A group of 16 riders managed to get away and that was the day’s break sorted. They were around 3’40” ahead of the peloton at kilometre 98. On the Col de la Joux, Warren Barguil and Serge Pauwels went solo to try and take the points. Pierre Latour attempted to bridge to the duo, but was unable to make it. Barguil outsprinted Pauwels to take 2 points, while Pauwels still came away with 1.

Riders were dropping from the front break back into the second break and back into the peloton. The Barguil-Pauwels group grew to 8 after the climb, while Team Sky were reducing the gap with hard pacing on the front. The major moves of the day were made on the Cote de Viry though. Lilian Calmejane broke away from the second chase group with Talansky and bridged it to the front. Warren Barguil counterattacked after the Calmejane bridge 2km out from the summit, taking Bakelants, Pauwels and GVA with him. Barguil again sprinted for the points and took 5 on the Cat 2 climb, while the others rolled through for the remaining points.

Back in the peloton, Chris Froome had gone off the road after overshooting a corner but didn’t crash. The gap to the break extended as a result back out to over 3 minutes, while Michael Valgren kept attacking from the peloton and yo-yoing back. He eventually bridged to the front group just before the start of Cote de la Combe, where riders started falling like flies. GVA, working for Nicolas Roche, was the first to fall. Simon Clarke and Jan Bakelants quickly followed, while Roche and Pauwels powered up the road. Gesink and Calmejane made the bridge to the front 2 making it a group of 4 up the climb.

18km out from the finish, and 6km from the summit, Lilian Calmejane went solo. While Nicolas Roche attempted to bridge, he was unable to do so. Robert Gesink was the only person able to follow Calmejane, and stood around 30” behind him while dropping Pauwels and Roche. Calmejane took 10 points on the pothole filled road up the Cote de la Combe, with a gap of 20”. Robert Gesink took 8 in 2nd place, while Guillaume Martin bridged to the group from the peloton up the climb and took 3rd for 6 points.

Then, it was a game of cat and mouse. Gesink went solo, in an attempt to chase down Calmejane. The gap was stable at around 38”, but with 5km to go, Calmejane started to cramp. This, however, didn’t deter the Frenchman, who only seemed to put more time into Gesink after regaining his composure. As the Flamme Rouge approached, Calmejane calmed himself down, got himself ready, and hyped up the crowds for one of the better postups this year in an amazing solo win. He has taken polkadot, and has taken his first stage win in his first Tour – in a place where his team mate Sylvain Chavanel won in 2010.

Back in the peloton, Dan Martin tried an attack with 3km to go, but failed to hold out to the finish. Robert Gesink was the only rider other than Calmejane to not be caught by the peloton before the finish, while Guillaume Martin took the best of the rest sprint for 3rd into Station des Rousses.

Tomorrow’s stage sees the riders tackle the best the Jura Mountains has to offer, with 3 HC climbs as the riders go from Nantua to Chambery. It’s the last stage before the first rest day, and could have a major impact on GC.