Alberto Contador takes the fight to overall Tour de France race leader Vincenzo Nibali on final climb
France was spared one of its all-too-frequent agonising waits until the Tour de France’s second or third week for its first French stage winner when Blel Kadri (Ag2r-La Mondiale) won stage eight from Tomblaine to Gerardmer la Mauselaine. The sole survivor of a five-man break that at one point had over ten minutes on the bunch, he hung on relatively comfortably on the final climb to win by over two minutes.
Meanwhile, behind him, the 2014 Tour de France’s general classification began to come into some sort of focus after the trio of short sharp climbs, culminating in a very steep 3rd category summit finish, that came in the last 30km of an otherwise fairly straightforward stage.
As soon as the road went up, Alberto Contador directed his Tinkoff-Saxo team to set a ferocious pace, which thinned out the main bunch and shed several overall contenders. But when the Spaniard attacked in the last few kilometres, current Yellow Jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali had no trouble in following him – indeed the Italian looked more comfortable with the pace than Contador.
The only rider to go after then with any efficacy was Team Sky’s Richie Porte. In the final sprint for the line, Contador gained a handful of seconds on Nibali to take second on the stage, and they both gained a little on Porte. Porte moved into third place, 1-58 behind the leader, and Contador moved up to sixth overall, 2-34 down.
After the stage, Nibali expressed satisfaction: “I lost less time than I did on this sort of climb in the Vuelta,’ he said. “They don’t really suit me, these very steep slopes. I have only lost a few seconds, I don’t think they will matter in a three-week race.”
Other than Kadri, the early break had included British rider Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) and sprinter Adrien Petit (Cofidis Credit Solutions). It fractured when Chavanel attacked around 30km from the end. Kadri went after him, and not long after dropped him.
“This was always the plan,” he said later. “At the meeting this morning we decided to get one of us into the break. When it went, we got a lot of time, and worked well together.”
Despite having dropped Simon Yates in those final kilometres, Kadri paid tribute to the 21 year-old: “He is very strong, and has had some good results in WorldTour races. He’s a better climber than me, so in the last kilometres I had to manage my pace very carefully to prevent him coming back to me. He’s going to be a great rider in the future.”
The day’s losers included Michal Kwaitkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) who lost 1-40, though he hung onto fourth place for the moment, and now holds the young riders’ white jersey, and especially Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) who crashed on the last descent (making that two crashes in two days) and lost 2-20 and slid from eighth to 16th overall.
Tour de France 2014, stage eight: Tomblaine to Gerardmer La Mauselaine, 161km
1. Blel Kadri (Fra) Ag2r in 3-49-28
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2-17
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 2-20
4. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 2-24
5. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 2-28
6. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) Ag2r at 2-28
7. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 2-36
8. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 2-40
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 2-48
10. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling at 2-54
22. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 3-44
43. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 5-59
Overall classification after stage eight
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 33-48-52
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 1-44
3. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 1-58
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma at 2-26
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 2-27
6. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2-34
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r at 2-39
8. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at 2-52
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin at 3-02
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 3-02
15. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Sky at 3-54
16. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 4-22
60. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge at 33-35