Blel Kadri solos to stage 8 victory, Nibali holds lead after GC shakeup
Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) has won the first summit finish of the 2014 Tour de France, attacking from a five-rider breakaway in the final 25km of stage 8. Kadri left his companions behind on the first of three climbs in the closing stages of the race, and held on to win by more than two minutes over the GC favourites.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) held on to his lead in the general classification after finishing third on the stage, while Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was among several riders to make big gains in the GC, finishing in second place on the stage.
The race got off to a frenetic start with plenty of early attacks as the riders left Tomblaine, but none managed to stick initially. Eventually Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) got clear with Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), before Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) led Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Adrien Petit (Cofidis) across to join the pair.
With the first half hour being raced at roughly 50km/h the peloton split into three groups, the likes of Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) being caught out initially. But with the five leaders joining forces and getting settled into a rhythm, the day’s break was formed and the peloton could relax. The breakaway, meanwhile, covered 51.2km in the first hour of racing.
Roughly 45km into the stage the five leaders had an advantage of 4:30 over the main field. With riders in the peloton taking it easy and chatting casually to one another, the gap was allowed to grow, pushing out to 6:30 with 100km to race, 8:00 with 90km to go and more than 10 minutes with 80km to the finish. All the while the teammates of race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) kept a watchful eye on things at the front of the peloton.
The day’s intermediate sprint was located in Dinoze, 61km from the finish, and it was Niki Terpstra that rolled across the line uncontested at the head of the breakaway. In the peloton it was the usual head-to-head between green jersey hopefuls Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar), with Coquard taking sixth place ahead of Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and then Sagan.
The five leaders reached their maximum advantage of 11 minutes with 51km to go, just as they entered a band of heavy rain. The peloton too fell foul of the elements a short time later, with riders reaching for jackets and gilets as the rain poured down.
With about 40km to go the peloton started to take things a little more seriously. Belkin came to the front for GC leader Bauke Mollema, while Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) was on the front riding for his team’s leader Jurgen van den Broeck. The increased tempo in the main field saw the leaders’ gap reduced steadily, down below eight minutes with 32km to go and down to roughly six minutes as the five riders began the longest climb of the day: the 7.6km, second category ascent to Col de la Croix des Moinats.
A couple of kilometres into the climb, 25.1km from the finish, Sylvain Chavanel attacked his four breakaway companions. Blel Kadri was the only one to respond, chasing after his compatriot and joining him with a little over 24km to the finish. Sensing the danger, Simon Yates left Terpstra and Petit behind and set off in search of Chavanel and Kadri.
With 22.5km to go, and 3.5km to the top of the first climb, Blel Kadri put in what turned out to be a race-winning move. He attacked Chavanel and started building up a lead of his own, while back in the peloton Tinkoff-Saxo was lined out, upping the tempo in support of Alberto Contador.
Kadri took the maximum five points on offer over the first climb which, combined with the five points he took while in the stage 2 breakaway, put him into the lead of the KOM classification.
The high pace being set by Rafael Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) and later Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) saw many riders shelled from the peloton, including Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). And when the peloton hit the second and penultimate climb of the day, the steep 3km Col de Grosse Pierre, the gap from Kadri back to the peloton was in the order of four minutes. Between them was the remnants of the breakaway.
Near the top of the climb Adrien Petit was the first of the breakaway riders to be caught by the peloton, while the likes of Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) were among the riders being forced out the back.
With 10km left to race, it was Michael Rogers leading the reduced peloton down a wet and foggy descent towards the final climb of the day. Further down the descent Tanel Kangert (Astana) overshot a corner, knocking over a spectator, and then Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) crashed for the second time in two days.
The American didn’t seem to be hurt, but after losing time to the crash and with what looked to be a dropped chain, Talansky ‘s chances of a high overall finish appeared to be fading away.
When Kadri began the final climb to the summit — a 1.8km rise at an average of 10.3% — he had roughly 3:30 over the chasing peloton. Simon Yates were soon caught by the Nicolas Roche-led peloton as they marched towards the line, but up the road, Kadri was riding away to victory. The Frenchman even had enough time to shake the hand of his director sportif who was leaning out the team car window, before continuing to the summit and taking the win in the rain.
In the ever-reducing peloton, Alberto Contador finally made his move with 1km to go as overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali attached himself to the Spaniard’s wheel. The pair passed Niki Terpstra with Richie Porte (Sky) the only rider able to stay in close proximity to the pair.
Sylvain Chavanel’s time off the front ended with about 500m to go on the steep climb to the finish, with Contador and Nibali looking very comfortable ahead of hard-working Porte, who couldn’t quite catch on, but who wasn’t giving up.
A last-ditch effort from Contador about 50m from the line saw him detach the Sicilian and take three seconds back in the general classification, with Porte finishing another four seconds behind Nibali.
Vincenzo Nibali holds on to his yellow jersey for the seventh day in a row but behind him, there was a significant shake-up in the general classification. Richie Porte moved up from seventh overall to third, Alejandro Valverde leapt from ninth to fifth and Alberto Contador jumped from 16th to sixth. Andrew Talansky, who eventually finished the day 2:20 behind Contador in 35th, drops from eighth down to 16th.
In the points classification Peter Sagan holds on to his strong lead, despite posting his first result outside the top five in this year’s Tour (130th, 19:53 behind Kadri). As mentioned, Blel Kadri takes over the lead in the KOM classification, while Michal Kwiatkowski takes the lead in the best young rider classification.
Tomorrow’s ninth stage of the race takes the riders 170km from Gerardmer to Mulhouse with no fewer than six categorised climbs along the way.
Previous stage reports
– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow
– Stage 7: Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow
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