Former Czech champion Roman Kreuziger sprinted to fifth place on stage eight of the Tour de France today after helping teammate Simon Yates to retain the white best young rider’s jersey.
Kreuziger finished in the main group of contenders, alongside his leaders in Yates and Esteban Chaves, 50seconds behind solo winner Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie).
Despite two threats to the white jersey in Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Pierre Latour (AG2R) riding themselves into the big breakaway group of the day, Yates and ORICA-SCOTT kept their eyes on the main objective of securing the white jersey at the end of the three weeks in Paris.
“It was on straight from the gun,” Yates said of the stage. “I think guys know there’s not many chances for the break so today was a good day for them to give it a go.”
“The pace was on from the beginning, it never really eased up at all.
“In the final there it wasn’t super hard. We just needed to stick with the GC guys as it’s a long way to Paris.
“These days you need a good result on the general classification to win the white jersey so this is the approach we’re taking. I kept an eye on Latour there in the final because he is a good rider and we don’t need him taking any seconds but otherwise it was business as usual.”
Tomorrow, the race tackles one of the hardest stages of this year’s Tour. The 181.5km stage from Nantua to Chambery features seven categorised ascents, including three ‘hors’ category climbs.
“I think a lot of guys are wary for tomorrow,” Yates explained. “If you went super deep today you can really pay for it. You might take a few seconds today, but that might mean you lose a lot tomorrow.”
“The descent tomorrow is really technical but it’s not just the descent, it’s a monster stage before we even get to that point.”
Earlier in the day, ORICA-SCOTT’s Daryl Impey and Jens Keukeleire joined a large breakaway after 50km of racing. The pair were amongst a group of 50 riders who rode off the front after the intermediate sprint.
“Daryl, Jens and Michael Albasini had the option to try to make today’s breakaway because we knew there was a good chance of it surviving,” sport director Matt White said.
“To have two in there with the group being so big was a good situation for us but with the pace as high as it was, it was only a couple of talented climbers from that group that survived.”
How it happened:
In contrast to the past couple of day’s racing, moments of lapse were few and far between on stage eight, with most teams keen to get someone into the day’s breakaway.
Despite many attempts, the sprint teams kept proceedings together early on in hope of collecting maximum intermediate points for the green jersey.
After the sprint at kilometre 45 a big group of 50 riders formed with Impey and Keukeleire present for ORICA-SCOTT. When it split further, Keuekeleire was once again there in a new front group of 13.
As they entered the second and harder half of the stage, the formation of the groups continued to change until a group of eight riders went clear on the penultimate climb. Impey dropped back to help his teammates in the peloton, whilst Keukeleire maintained his position in the larger group at the front, the now the second on the road.
By the last and most difficult climb just a few riders remained in front, including local French rider Calmejane who held on for the victory. Behind, Team Sky set the pace on the final climb before the general classification group finished together 50seconds behind the winner.
Tour de France – Stage 8 Results:
1. Lillian Calmejane (Direct Energie) 4:30:29
2. Robert Gesink (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) +0:37
3. Guillaume Martin (Wanty – Groupe Gobert) +0:50
5. Roman Kreuziger (ORICA-SCOTT) +0:50
Tour de France – General Classification after stage 8:
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky) 33:19:10
2. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) +0:12
3. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) +0:14
6. Simon Yates (ORICA-SCOTT) +0:43