Frenchman Lilian Calmejane takes a fragmented stage eight
So much happened on stage 8. Two days of relentless flat racing was followed by another day of full gas as the riders weaved their way from the category three climb of Col de la Joux to the finish. It was difficult to predict a winner on a brutal stage that fragmented the 193 riders. In the end, it was the bravery of Lilian Calmejane who took the stage, he decided to make a move with 17Km to go. The Direct Energie rider fought through the pain barrier after developing cramp with 5Km to go. Calmejane is riding in his first Tour de France and will proudly wear the polka dot jersey tomorrow. Lotto Jumbo rider Robert Gesink chased hard but had to be content with second place, finishing 37 seconds behind the stage winner.
The first breakaway was attempted by a number of riders including Edvald Boasson Hagen, Gianluca Brambilla, Sylvain Chavanel and Alberto Bettiol. Unsurprisingly, the GC contenders didn’t make any audacious attacks, tomorrow’s mountain stage may well have inhibited such thoughts. At one point the official race data was indicating 32 different groups. The breakaway was such thatat one point in time it resembled the look of a peloton. It was difficult to track which riders were attacking and which riders were going backwards. The stage seemed to re-write itself as skirmishes broke out for most of the 187.5Km route.
Team Sky did their job well, protecting Chris Froome. The three-time Tour de France winner remains in the yellow jersey. Froome seemed very relaxed and vibrant in the post-stage interviews. Team-mate Geraint Thomas had a fall during the stage, however, he seems to be relatively unscathed and must prepare himself for another long day in the saddle on stage 9. At the time of writing it is unclear as to whether or not Arnaud Démare will make the cut.
Stage 9 is going to be a beast. It is a technical stage and takes the riders 181.5Km from Nantus to Chambéry. Hors catégory climbs will be the order of the day, there will be three of them riders to tackle in total. The days starts with an uphill climb toward the Col de Bérentin at 1144m. The Col du Grand Colombier may leave a few mental scars on the riders, it peaks at 22% in places.
The weather is likely to play a part in stage 9. The forecast promises rain. Those riders that have the ability to descend will have an advantage over the more conservative riders, expect a chute or two. We won’t know what tyre pressures are being used or what type of tyre, but the bike set up will make a difference.
We’ve seen Fabio Aru have a pop at a hilltop finish and Calmejane demonstrate his climbing ability in the foothills of the Alps. Don’t be surprised to see an early attack from an unfancied rider. This is a real opportunity for the mountain goats to turn in on and take some time of thier rivals.
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Featured image from letour.com