2012 Tour de France–Stage 8

8 Jul

Attack then attack again was the rallying cry of the day. All that attacking made Stage 8 the most competitive stage of the Tour thus far.

From the gun, riders attacked to get in what they hoped would be a winning breakaway. It was a good plan, if a breakaway without a threat to overall GC was to get in front, the yellow jersey wearer’s team would have no reason to chase them down. Team Sky and the leader of the Tour, Bradley Wiggins had what they wanted – the race lead – and could benefit from other teams doing the work at the front to chase down a break.

Stage 8 profileStage 8 was a day of up and down racing. There were 7 climbs in total with an average gradient of about 6% – except for the last climb which was short but steep.

voigt-attacks-stage 8 velo newsJens Voight, the old man of the Tour at 41 years of age, raced like he was 22 when he took off and managed to stay in front taking the first two climbs. Others joined him eventually culminating in a breakaway of about 20 riders – give or take a few at any one time. It was hard to keep track, partly due to the poor race coverage by NBC initially and also due to riders taking off at the front and falling off the back.

It wasn’t the smooth breakaway of 3-6 riders we’ve seen every other day, where they work together to give themselves the best chance to stay away and get a win. This breakaway was too large to form a cohesive unit taking turns pulling. Today’s was a highly disorganized breakaway all looking to break from the breakaway.

Eventually a few riders did just that. Frederk Kessiakoff (Astana) managed to catch then drop Jeremy Roy with FDJ and take the 5th climb with the peloton 3:08 back. Vincenzo Nibali and his Liquigas squad – including the sprinter that can climb – Peter Sagan went to the front to try and reduce the lead. As the chase began the peloton started picking up riders that had been dropped from the breakaway.

Team Lotto, Jurgen Vanden Broeck and teammate Vanendert came to the front of the peloton next and continued to pick up discarded riders one by one from the breaks. Kessiakoff continued to build his lead up front.

The first chase group contained Roy’s teammate – the youngest rider in the Tour – Thibaut Pinot a Frenchman who had to talk his manager into putting him in the Tour despite the fact he is young and inexperienced.  Pinot proceeded to chase down Kessiakoff, catching him with 14k to the finish then dropping him on the final climb. The one-two punch of FDJ’s was perfect with Roy doing his part earlier and Pinot bringing home the win. Kessiakoff had run out of gas having spent so much time out front on his own.

It wasn’t an easy win for Pinot. He had Kessiakoff pursuing of course, but that wasn’t his main problem. He also had the “heads of state” as Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen (the voices of cycling) like to call them – bearing down on him.

It was something to see – Evans, Wiggins, Froome, Nibali, Vanden Broeck, Menchov and Schleck, Horner, Zubelia and Gallopin from Radio Shack in hot pursuit, working together to try and catch Pinot.

Pinot’s manager in the FDJ team car was hanging out the back window screaming encouragement to Pinot to keep going. A couple of miles out, his lead was down to :38 over the elite peloton when first Vanden Broeck then Schleck attacked – hoping to gain precious seconds on Wiggins. Pinot didn’t care – he took the win – the first for the French in this year’s Tour.

stage 8 evansDespite the fact that Evans was caught he pushed again at the line and managed to snag second place, no time on Wiggins, but it might have been a small moral victory for the reigning TDF champion. Something else that might give him hope was his teammate Tejay Van Garderen finishing in the 2nd group just 1:25 back.

The old man of the Tour, Voight, started the stage off attacking and the youngest man in the Tour finished the stage with a brilliant ride that gave him his first win in his first Tour de France. Many riders finish their careers without ever having won a stage. Pinot looks to be something special, the French must be thrilled.

Stage 8 pinot velonews

 


Stage 9 – Individual Time-Trial Preview:

PROFIL8

Tomorrow is the “race of truth” – the individual time trial. Indeed it will be a race of truth for anyone that hopes to win the Tor or place on the final podium. It is the 2nd of 3 time trials in the Tour this year and is a long one at 41.5 kilometers.

Who needs to win?

Wiggins needs to do well to maintain control of the yellow jersey; Evans needs to do well to narrow the time gap to Wiggins and the yellow jersey, same goes for Menchov. Tony Martin would like to salvage something from this Tour and a win here would be huge. Fabian Cancellara would like to win to show he truly is the king of the TT even those that are long. Dave Zabriskie and David Miller both of Garmin-Sharp, would love to win to bring a stage win to a team that has had nothing but bad luck in the first week of the Tour.

Those that don’t win, but want to win the yellow must stay close to Wiggins’ time and limit their losses to keep their hopes alive. To really keep them alive they need to gain time on Wiggins by beating his TT time. It won’t be easy, Wiggins is one of the best and most people would put their money on him to win tomorrow. I’m not so sure he will or maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part because I want the race to stay close and competitive.

If Wiggins wins tomorrow and gains significant time on Evans, this Tour will be over for GC except to see who gets third. I for one am not ready for the drama to be over. Speaking of drama, Wiggins teammate, Christopher Froome beats his time tomorrow (he’s a great TT winner) that would provide us with a lot of drama!

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