By Jean-François Quénet in Toulouse
Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) was one of four men hoping for a stage win while in a long breakaway on stage eight. He was joined by team-mate Laurent Lefèvre, AG2R's Christophe Riblon and Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka.
Lefèvre, who hails from the north of France, but considered himself a local on the road to Toulouse after having relocated to the nearby city of Pibrac, wasn't so optimistic about the break's chances of staying away. "I knew there were long straight roads in the finale," he said referring to places where the four might be reeled in by the chasing peloton.
"Sometimes the rain favors breakaways, but with 40km to go, we only had less than a minute's advantage. We'd done what we could," said a disheartened Riblon, who is from Picardie. "Since the beginning of the Tour, I have looked for breakaways." Riblon said a crash had affected him on day one, but he was feeling fine now.
"So far we haven't had many of the guys from our team in the front because we have been preserving ourselves for the mountains," said Riblon of his team's strategy. "Personally I will not win a stage in the Pyrénées, so I had to try something before. I don't want to finish the Tour with regrets."
Pineau seemed to be the rider in the break with the most determination to make it succeed. He launched an attack with only 10km to go; it lasted until four kilometers to go.
Riblon looked exhausted at the end of stage eight. "I would have liked to follow the moves in the finale, but the rain and cold made my legs hard. I couldn't go with Pineau when he attacked."
Pineau said his initial move of counterattacking the break was "to protect Lefèvre who was away already." He lamented that fact that his breaks have not been successful as he was hoping for a stage victory. "When I'm away, the peloton always brings it back; it's not the case with some other riders, but with Jérôme, it does. I need a big win."
Although Pineau is the best Frenchman on GC, he said he's not proud of that position so far as it's only 29th. However, he indicated that he will continue to do what he can.