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Tour’14 St.8: Blel & The Battle Of The Vosges

Race Report: Another long attack highlighted the early goings of the Tour’s first mountain stage today with the win finally going the way of the break thanks to a superb performance from Blel Kadri. The mountains mightn’t have been long today but they sure provided some real fireworks amongst the GC contenders with some big changes in the top 20 by stage’s end.

A Fast Start
After a week full of unsuccessful breaks today truly looked like it could favor the escapees and as a consequence there were alot of riders who wanted to be in ‘the move’.


There were 161km on the menu with a very difficult last 25km that took in 3 climbs, the Col de la Croix des Moinats, 7.6 km at 6%, the Col de Grosse Pierre 3 km at 7.5% and finally the Côte de La Mauselaine only 1.8 kilometres long but at a very steep 10.3%.

Before all the climbs though there was 136km to ride and the peloton was racing them very quickly after they covered 30 km in just the first 30 minutes before settling back into a slightly more sane 51 kilometres in the first hour after the break was finally established.

The men that made the break were Adrien Petit (Cofidis), Niki Terpstra (OPQS), Blel Kadri (Ag2r), IAM strongman Sylvain Chavanel and the youngest rider left in the race, Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge). After these 5 riders got together the speed was turned off in the peloton and their lead ballooned out to more than 10 minutes over the Astana led peloton.

Here Comes The Rain
At 55km to go and with the break now ahead by 11 minutes the heavens opened and the 5 riders ahead were caught out in a torrential downpour. It seemingly came out of nowhere and the breakaway riders had no time to get their rain gear but thanks to their large lead the info got back to the peloton and the domestiques were quickly sent back to the team cars to get jackets for their leaders before the peloton too was caught out.

The rain had come in quickly but it didn’t seem to be leaving quickly with the sky having turned grey in all directions and the risk of a wet finish to the stage looked to be high. Consequently the peloton was awakened from their relaxing pace and all the GC favorites started positioning themselves closer to the front as the risks of crashes in the wet and the approaching climbs started increasing the nerves in the peloton.

It’s Mountains Time!
Tinkoff-Saxo started driving the peloton on the approach to the first mountain and the gap to the break quickly dropped to 6 minutes at 25km to go. It was at this point that Chavanel attacked and Blel Kadri sensed the danger and took off after him, caught him and then 2km later he left Chavanel behind just as Simon Yates had attacked Terpstra and Petit in an effort to cross the gap to the Frenchmen up ahead. Yates couldn’t cross the gap though and Chavanel couldn’t bring back Kadri as the gap continued to grow with Kadri cresting the climb 55s ahead of Chavanel, 1m20s over Yates with Terpstra and Petit out of contention much further down.

Meanwhile back in the peloton the fast pace of Tinkoff-Saxo team lead to two GC riders in Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) and Haimar Zubeldia (Trek) being dropped early on the climb with the peloton cresting the summit 4m34s behind Kadri.


Col de Grosse Pierre
The 2nd category Col de Grosse Pierre was next up and Kadri continued to ride well increasing his gap over Chavanel and Yates and maintaining the 4m30s gap over the Tinkoff led peloton. Contador’s men were continuing to do a lot of damage in the peloton with their high pace dropping Chris Horner early on this climb and then Bauke Mollema, Pierre Rolland and Jakob Fuglsang all being dropped in the last 500m. Kadri crested the summit alone 1m36s ahead of Chavanel, 2m30s over Yates and still 3m54s over the peloton. The Frenchman from Toulouse was heading to his 3rd career victory if he could keep this up with only the wet descent and the final 1.8km of steep climbing between him and the biggest win of his career.

Dangerous Descent
On the descent Kadri took no risks but that wasn’t the case back in the peloton with Astana’s Tanel Kangert first to go off the road where he got caught up with a spectator’s chair as he tried to pace Fuglsang and Belkin’s Mollema back on to the peloton. These pair were now alone having descended quicker than Pierre Rolland and they were almost back onto the group when there was a crash in the peloton with Andrew Talansky once again being involved. This was a bad time to go down with the pressure being on as Tinkoff-Saxo drove the pace and Talansky would end up losing big time by the end of the stage. (finishing the stage 35th @ 4m37s to Kadri)

Just another crash for Talansky this Tour – how many is that now?

The Last Climb
1.8km at 10.3% was the last part of today’s stage and this short but brutal ramp was to do some big damage to the GC. Before the GC battle would take place though Kadri rode his way to a fine and well deserved win in front of a huge crowd cheering in the rain the first French stage winner of the 2014 Tour.

The hero of the day – especially for the French, Blel Kadri

Back in the pack after the last Tinkoff-Saxo man pulled off Alberto Contador went to the front to force the pace and his high speed quickly dropped most of the big favorites and with 650m to go there was only Vincenzo Nibali left on his wheel. Richie Porte was trying hard to get back on but he couldn’t quite close the gap and Alejandro Valverde and Tejay van Garderen couldn’t close the gap either. Ag2r were having a great day with both Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet still there in the top 10 but the battle was up front between the two big favorites for the Tour, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. It looked like they were very evenly matched as Contador couldn’t shake his Italian tail until the last 75 meters where Nibali finally let go to see Contador cross over in 2nd for the stage and take 3 seconds out of Nibali’s healthy GC lead.

Richie Porte came in a further 4 seconds down followed by Pinot, Peraud, Valverde, van Garderen, Bardet and Sylvain Chavanel who held on for 10th after a long day in the break. With this last final ramp, some GC outsider favorites fading on the second last climb and the unfortunate Talansky crash there are some big changes in the GC tonight.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck was another of the big GC losers today finishing 18th @ 3m37s

Despite Fuglsang’s failings on the Col de Grosse Pierre he remains in second overall, Richie Porte has moved up into 3rd and Michal Kwiatkowski made a great recovery on the final descent and climb and was rewarded with 4th overall at the finish and the lead in the white jersey competition.

Another exciting end to a stage and a worthy entrée for the trilogy of Vosges stages this long weekend in France. Despite the continued wet weather, this Tour de France is really starting to heat up.

Stage 8 Results:
1 Blel Kadri (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 3:49:28
2 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:17
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:20
4 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:02:24
5 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:02:28
6 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
7 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:36
8 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:02:40
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:48
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling 0:02:54
11 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:02:55
12 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida 0:03:01
13 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky
14 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:03:28
15 Brice Feillu (Fra) Bretagne – Seche Environnement 0:03:33
16 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Tinkoff-Saxo
17 John Gadret (Fra) Movistar Team 0:03:35
18 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol 0:03:37
19 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar
20 Arnold Jeannesson (Fra) FDJ.fr

GC After Stage 8:
1 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 33:48:52
2 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:44
3 Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:01:58
4 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:02:26
5 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:02:27
6 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:02:34
7 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:39
8 Rui Alberto Costa (Por) Lampre – Merida 0:02:52
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:03:02
10 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol
11 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol 0:03:27
12 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ.fr 0:03:32
13 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:03:34
14 Jean-Christophe Péraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:37
15 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:03:54
16 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin – Sharp 0:04:22
17 Yury Trofimov (Rus) Team Katusha 0:04:38
18 Mikel Nieve Iturralde (Spa) Team Sky 0:05:09
19 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling 0:05:44
20 Tiago Machado (Por) Team Netapp-Endura 0:06:08

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