Blel Kadri of AG2R has won Stage 8 of the Tour de France at Gérardmer La Mauselaine after attacking from the break and soloing his way for 23 kilometres over the first mountains of this year’s race to clinch victory. Thre Frenchman also takes over the lead in the mountains classification. Behind, Alberto Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo team set a blistering pace at the front of the main bunch as the road headed uphill, leaving race leader Vincenzo Nibali isolated. Contador finished second, just ahead of Nibali and Sky's Richie Porte, on a day when a lot of overall contenders lost time.
Kadri had begun the stage 1 point behind Cofidis rider Cyril Lemoine in the mountains classification, giving him an incentive to get into the break which finally formed after an hour or so of frantic racing on a day when once again the peloton was drenched by rain, with thunderstorms at the finish that fortunately had abated before the race arrived.
Initially, it was IAM’s Sylvain Chavanel who got away and he was joined by his former team mate at Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Niki Terpstra. Three more riders subsequently joined them, Kadri, the Cofidis rider Adrien Petit and Simon Yates of Orica-GreenEdge, the youngest man left in the race.
With the climbing packed into the final 25 kilometres of the 161 kilometre stage from Tomblaine, Chavanel attacked his fellow escapees ahead of the first ascent, the Category 2 Col de la Croix des Moinats, only Kadri able to follow him.
Soon, the AG2R rider was out on his own, cresting the summit alone to assure himself of the polka dot jersey this evening, and despite the pace being set behind by Tinkoff-Saxo behind dug in deep to maintain his advantage and claim the biggest win of his career.
There was a reshuffling of the top placings in the General Classification as a number of riders lost contact with the group set containing the race leader. Porte’s efforts see him rise to third overall behind the Astana pair of Nibali and Jakob Fuglsang.
Contador rises to sixth overall, but among the GC riders to struggle today was Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky, who crashed for the second day running and slips from eighth overall to sixteenth place.
We fought a lot to catch that breakaway. It was a 40-km long effort to make it. On the way, I mostly feared Chavanel and Terpstra. I knew they would attack. So when Chavanel accelerated, I immediately went behind him. I was ready for that.
I've realised that he wasn't that strong, so I rode away solo because I wanted to avoid the return of Simon Yates as he's a much better climber than me. I also knew that, had I stayed with Chavanel, he would have dropped me off in the downhill as this is his strong point.
It's something crazy to win a stage at the Tour de France. I was convinced that I'd do it one day like Christophe Riblon at l'Alpe d'Huez last year. Our goal as a team was to win a stage. The polka dot jersey is the icing on the cake. I'm really happy. Now I hope that we'll see AG2R-La Mondiale at the front again in the days to come.
Alberto Contador took the race in hand. The last climb suited him more than me. It was very difficult and explosive. I quickly understood what he wanted to do since he put his team at work. He attacked me but I was going well. I made a little mistake in choosing my gear. It was a bit too big.
We've all paid the efforts of the previous days. In my team, [Tanel] Kangert has waited for [Jakob] Fuglsang who almost crashed because we prefer to have two men high on GC. Michele Scarponi remained on my side. We spoke well about what to do when Contador would accelerate. We expected him to do so anytime. He's ready to gain time wherever he can.
He went strongly! I've tried to handle the situation the best way I could. I've tried to control till the very end. I've resisted to all of his attacks. The race is not a duel though. It's more than that. Richie Porte is up there. He was supposed to be the last man for Froome. He's not here by coincidence.
I've also seen Valverde riding at ease even if he lost a bit at the end. There have been great riders in action today. I feel good despite the rain. I try to remain calm in all occasions.
I wanted to see how Nibali was doing and I was surprised he kept so close. I wasn't sure whether there was anyone ahead of me, that's why I moved. I saw there was someone ahead of me and then I decided to take a little bit of time off Nibali.
I'm happy. The team was extraordinary and the legs responded well. We'll have to see day by day. Nibali is a great rider like all the great riders ahead of me. I must keep hoping and try to take time with each stage.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.