What's Cool In Road Cycling

TdF’12 Stage 8: Young Gun Shines On Debut

Race Report: One of the shortest stages of the Tour proved to be one of the hardest as the race headed into Switzerland for a leg sapping stage with the youngest rider in the race taking the win.

Stage 8 wasn’t a ‘true’ mountain stage but it was always going to be a draining day for the peloton with 7 categorized climbs and hardly a meter of flat road in between. The up and down nature of the day and the big time trial of tomorrow’s stage in the back of the GC rider’s minds meant that this stage lent itself perfectly to the attackers to finally make it to the finish line ahead of the peloton today. Consequently every attacking rider who could climb wanted to be in the day’s break so the action was fast and furious from the gun.

With seven climbs on the program today and the time trial tomorrow this stage was designed for the attackers.

One of the first riders to attack today was Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) who got away early before being chased down by the peloton to then only go away again in another large group. Unfortunately for Jens, Team Sky wasn’t happy with the size of the group and kept the break almost within sight for a longtime.

Meanwhile back in the peloton reigning Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez (Euskatel) fell heavily along with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) an FDJ rider and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). All were able to rejoin the peloton a number of kilometers later except for Sanchez who stayed down on the ground clearly in a lot of pain to eventually be taken away to hospital with a broken collarbone and hand. This means of course no Olympic defense for Sanchez and yet another withdrawal from the Spanish Olympic team after Oscar Freire withdrew earlier this week following on from his injuries sustained in a crash at le Tour.

On the 2nd category climb of the Cote de Saignelegier it looked like the large break up front was finished as SKY continued to push the pace and the gap narrowed to less than 30 seconds when some riders, including Voigt sat up. Meanwhile others saw this as a great opportunity and some riders from the peloton jumped across the small gap to the break to eventually form a 22 rider group.

It was at this moment, 1/2 way up the climb that the yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins thought was a good time to stop for a ‘nature break’ so consequently the chase from Team SKY stopped, the gap to the break ballooned out and this looked like being the break of the day.

With such a large group up front and with both Rabobank and Ag2r having three riders each in the move the cohesion amongst the group was poor to say the least and the group split up on numerous occasions. The main split occurred on the 2nd category Cote de Saulcy where Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff rode away from the rest taking some more points in the KOM competition and leaving a shattered breakaway group behind. The numbers dropped from 22 in the move to 14 as the taxing parcours took its toll and Kessiakoff continued to look strong as he built up a solid lead of over 1 minute on his former companions and over 3 minutes on the peloton with 45km to go – could he do it?

With 35km to go the face of the race changed back in the peloton as Liquigas took over from SKY in the chase with everyone asking the question, are they working for Nibali or Sagan? Yes, impressively the green jersey Peter Sagan was still in the peloton after 5 categorized climbs had passed and despite the fact that all the other sprinters in the race were many, many minutes behind. In fact a large group of 60 riders that included Cavendish, Greipel and co. were finding this stage in Switzerland extremely tough today and were battling just to make the time delay but could Sagan battle for the stage win?

The 2nd last climb of the day, the 2nd category Cote de la Caquerelle proved decisive as Kessiakoff confirmed his impressive riding, steadily holding his lead whilst the break exploded with the two Frenchmen, Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-BigMat) being the strongest riding away from the others in pursuist of Astana’s Swede powerhouse. Meanwhile back in the peloton the Liquigas chase was making next to no headway on Kessiakoff’s lead and another Sagan victory started to look less likely.

With 20km remaining Kessiakoff hit the final and hardest climb of the day with a 1minute lead on the two Frenchmen and a 3m20s lead on the peloton. The first stages of the climb saw Pinot attack Gallopin and ride away alone in search of Kessiakoff with 1 minute to make up on the 4 km 1st category climb with an excruciatingly difficult average gradient of 9.7%. The steep slopes of the Col de la Croix proved to be just too much for Kessiakoff with Pinot catching and dropping him in the final 600m of the climb.

Back in the peloton the steep slopes were seriously hurting most in the peloton also with a small group of just 8 riders cresting the top together Van Den Brock, Wiggins, Froome, Evans, Nibali, Schleck, Zubeldia & Menchov 1m36s behind Pinot. The big favorites for the GC were there but the American Classic Wheels of White Jersey holder Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) were turning a bit slower than his impressive performance yesterday just getting tailed off towards the top along with his big rival for the jersey Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) also being dropped.

With the youngest rider of the race and a late Tour de France replacement for the FDJ team, Thibaut Pinot speeding off for the biggest win of his career and his director sportif Marc Madiot celebrating like crazy in the team car the French cameras almost missed the fireworks that were happening in the group behind.

A superb win for young Thibaut Pinot – the next Bernaud Hinault? or is he just the next young hope to be labelled like that by the French media?

Lotto’s Van Den Broeck and BMC’s Evans attacked the Wiggins group getting a small gap before being reeled back in by Wiggins himself. Evans wasn’t finished with his show of strength though as he sprinted across the line to get 2nd on the stage with Wiggins also showing his strength with a strong 4th place. Some changes in the overall standings as Pinot moves up, Taaramae moves down but keeps his white jersey, Kessiakoff moves into the mountains lead but the real battle between Wiggins and Evans proves to be a tie. That’s all going to change tomorrow with the big 42 km time trial though – keep it tuned to Pez!

Cadel tried a late cheeky attack with Van Den Broeck today but Wiggins was right there again to shut him down

Stage 8 Results:
1 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 3:56:10
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:26
3 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:26
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:26
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:26
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:26
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:26
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:26
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:26
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:30

General Classification After Stage 8:
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 38:17:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:16
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:54
5 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:59
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:32
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:08
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:11
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:21
10 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:02:27

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