Tour de France Report, Stage 8

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RBA/AFP

Reigning champion Chris Froome gave a demonstration of his versatility in riding away on a fast descent to take the yellow jersey at the Tour de France on Saturday. Renowned for his blistering attacks on steep climbs, the Briton stunned his Tour rivals by going clear on a speedy descent to the finish of the 184km eighth stage from Pau to Bagneres de Luchon in the Pyrenees.

He caught everyone by surprise, commentators and fans included, with a curious technique where he slipped off his saddle and onto the bike’s central bar to gain aerodynamic benefits, yet still managing to pedal furiously. No-one in a select group of 13 challengers reacted quickly enough and Froome opened up a 13 second gap by the finish.

Ireland’s Dan Martin won the sprint for second from Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain. Froome now leads by 16sec overall from young Briton Adam Yates and Rodriguez, while previous yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet finished a long way back.

“It wasn’t really planned. I thought I’d give it a try in the downhill as the few tries on the climb didn’t work out,” said Sky leader Froome. “They (his rivals) were sticking to us so I decided to give it a go in the descent. It was cool. Bike racing is just fun, but maybe I spent a little bit too much energy –tomorrow is a hard stage but I take every second I can.”

Froome’s main rival Nairo Quintana finished the stage in 13th place on the same time as Martin and is now sixth overall at 23-seconds.

Team manager Dave Brailsford praised Froome’s ingenuity and said this proved Sky aren’t the boring team they’re often made out to be. “Sometimes we’re too predictable so today we decided to change things a bit,” he said. “We mixed the tactics and did something unexpected. Well done Chris! It’s true that on the descent, as an Englishman, I had my heart in my mouth, but it worked. Great credit to Chris, he’s a fighter, he takes chances, he’s a real racer.”

It was a bad day for Spanish two-time former winner Alberto Contador, who’s still struggling with injuries he suffered in a crash on the opening stage. He finished 1:41 behind Froome and is now more than 3min behind in the
overall standings.

Overall Standings:
    1. Chris Froome (GBR/Sky) 39hr 13min 04sec
2. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) at 0:16.
3. Joaquin Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 0:16.
4. Daniel Martin (IRL/ETI) 0:17.
5. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 0:19.
6. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 0:23.
7. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 0:23.
8. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 0:23.
9. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 0:23.
10. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 0:23.
11. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 0:23.
12. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/TIN) 0:34.
13. Louis Meintjes (RSA/LAM) 0:34.
14. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA) 1:51.
15. Pierre Rolland (FRA/CAN) 1:55.
16. Wilco Kelderman (NED/LNL) 1:55.
17. Jurgen Van den Broeck (BEL/KAT) 2:00.
18. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 2:08.
19. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 2:31.
20. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 3:12.

Photo: Bettini

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