What's Cool In Road Cycling

TdF’08 St.8: Super Cav Makes it Two

Race Report: A wet, horrible day in the saddle and a group of four (3 French) try their luck on a long break away, but are reeled in within sight of the line, and then is all down to the sprinters teams. Columbia was there in force and in the end it was the “Flying Manx man” Mark Cavendish who took his second Tour stage by lengths.

Bit of a strange course today, it’s a transition stage but not as we know it- We have four climbs early on in the run from Figeac to Toulouse and two of them are quite hard, the Cфte de Macarou (3rd cat) and the Cфte du Port de la Besse (3rd cat) come before the 75 kilometer mark, so from there to the finish it’s about 100 kilometers of undulations, it could suit an early break or maybe an other bunch sprint? A hard call.

Yesterday’s winner, Luis Leon Sanchez dedicated his win to his brother who died three years ago. He has another brother who plays football for Spanish first division side Levante who also dedicates his wins to his brother in similar fashion when he scores. Luis Leon said he was working hard for his fellow Murcian team leader, Alejandro Valverde, but also that the team wants Oscar Pereiro near the lead.

There are a few non starters this morning; Lilian Jegou (FdJ), Mauro Facci (Quick Step), Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) and John Gadret (Ag2r) did not finish yesterday and it looks like Magnus Backstedt (Garmin) maybe didn’t make the time cut. The other non starter is Manuel Beltrбn (Liquigas) who has been removed from the race due to blood abnormalities; this might allow the Liquigas team to carry on in this Tour.

Now Today’s Stage
The early action included David de la Fuente’s chase for more mountain points and a big break of 14 riders who had Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) along for the ride, this would have finished the break pretty quickly so he sat up, it was all for nothing as they were reeled back by the climb of the Cфte de Macarou. Over the top of the climb Laurent Lefevere (Bouygues) was first followed by de la Fuente, Lefevere persisted on his own and built up a lead of nearly 2 minutes with 50 kilometers under his belt. Behind a small group three get together a chase from the uninterested bunch, they were Lefevere’s team mate at Bouygues Telecom; Jerome Pineau, Christophe Riblon (Ag2r) and Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel).

Nice weather, yea?

With less than 100 kilometers to Toulouse and the hills behind them, Lefevere was five and a half minutes ahead of the bunch and the pursuing three were around 30 seconds behind Lefevere who had collected most of the mountain and sprint points for the day, de la Fuente has 34 points in the mountains classification, so Lefevere is not a threat, yet! With 90 kilometers to go they get together making it four ahead of a Columbia lead main peloton under dark clouds and damp conditions.

With the rain coming down quite heavily there has been many punctures including Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) and the green jersey wearing (2nd to Kirchen) Oscar Freire (Rabobank), two favorites for today if it comes down to a sprint. The other favorite, Mark Cavendish (Columbia) was safe in the bunch with his team on the front, the question is “will they have anything left for a lead out like the other day?” Columbia have done a lot of work this first week with lead outs and leader protection.

The Last 50 Kilometers
The four leaders where still splashing their way through the puddles of France 3 minutes ahead of a slightly more animated bunch, Columbia were being given a helping hand by Credit Agricole who would be wanting the leaders back to give their Sprinter, Thor Hushovd a chance to get some well needed points. This started the ball rolling and Liquigas (yes, they are still here) and Rabobank joined in the chase, bringing the gap down 2 minutes in a matter of 10 kilometers. On a wet roundabout quite a few riders hit the deck, more sort of slide, one of which is Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) who seems to be in some pain, holding his right hip he will have a problem catching the now fast moving peloton, three team mates come back to try to pace him back up. As they get amongst the team cars there seems to be quite a few gaps between the cars, possibly things that the “Cobra” has said in the past are affecting how much help he gets from other teams? The Cobra will slither back though.

Through the medieval town of Rabastens at 134 kilometers the four leaders have 50 seconds on a more casual bunch who know they can catch them whenever they want. With 33 kilometers to Toulouse Feddy Bichot (Agritubel) starts an attack to bridge over the leaders, this just stretches the bunch out as no one wants any more up the road, this move doesn’t work, but it launches Niki Terpstra (Milram) towards the four leaders as Simon Gerrans and Mark Renshaw (Credit Agricole) polices the bunch at a fair pace, enough to make sure Terpstra doesn’t make it across.

The Last 20 Kilometers
There are a couple of small slopes before the finish, but they are far enough out that they shouldn’t make a difference if things stay as they are, the four have 43 seconds over the first rise of Gйmil. Then over the last short climb of the Castelmaurou with 12 kilometers of downhill and flat road to go, Jerome Pineau (Bouygues) attacks and Txurruka (Euskaltel) gets with him, the other two are soon swallowed up by the bunch which is now flying under the impetus of Liquigas, any sprinter who has managed to hang on over this climb will have a chance, Zabel, Friere, Forster, McEwen and Cavendish can all been seen near the front. Pineau and Txurruka are caught at 3.6 kilometers out.

No doubting Columbia today: Cav and Ciolek 1-2!

The Sprint Gallop
Columbia goes to the front in a “Blue Train” formation for Mark Cavendish, but it’s not fast enough and Quick Step takes over the running into the last kilometer. Steegmans is leading out from the front; just behind him are Freire, Casper and Forster. Cavendish and fellow Columbia rider Ciolek come round on the others’ right hand side, it’s so wet it looks like slow-motion, but Cavendish is moving so fast he has time take both hands of the bars and still be two lengths in front of the others. Columbia lost control of the sprint, this didn’t affect the fast Manx man who kept his cool and took another brilliant stage.

Heading into the Pyrenees, Kirchen still has his tenuous six second lead over Cadel Evans.

The next two days promises to be very decisive with the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Hautacam all to be climbed, there will be some changes on the overall. At the finish Cavendish thought today was the best day for the team as they got first and second on the stage and kept the yellow jersey. He feels OK and will see how he feels tomorrow in the Pyrenees. No change in the overall, but Oscar Freire takes the green jersey that he was looking after for Kim Kirchen.

Oscarito swiped Vert from Kirchen. Ah well, nobody noticed that Kirchen had it anyhow.

Stage 8 Result:
1 Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia in 4:02:54.
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Columbia all at same time.
3 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel
4 Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank
5 Robert Fцrster (Ger) Gerolsteiner
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
7 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step
8 Sйbastien Chavanel (Fra) Franзaise des Jeux
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crйdit Agricole
10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
11 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel
12 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crйdit Agricole
13 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
14 Iсaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi
15 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
16 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
17 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence – Lotto
18 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis – Le Crйdit par Tйlйphone
19 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle
20 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

Overall After Stage 8:
1 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia in 32:26:34
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto at 6 secs.
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 16 secs.
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle at 44 secs.
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1.03
6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1.12
7 David Millar (GB) Team Garmin-Chipotle at 1.14
8 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step at 1.21
9 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
10 Thomas Lцvkvist (Swe) Team Columbia
11 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi at 1.27
12 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC – Saxo Bank at 1.34
13 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank at 1.56
14 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC – Saxo Bank at 1.58
15 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner at 2.03
16 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis at 2.07
17 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre at 2.09
18 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi at 2.16
19 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R at 2.19
20 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 2.20

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