After two days for the sprinters, BMC's Richie Porte is ready for a weekend in the mountains. The Australian was fourth in the first climbing test of the Tour de France at La Planche des Belles Filles and after two stressful flat days, he is looking forward to terrain better suited to his characteristics.
"There was a bit of wind there and everyone wanted to be at the front. It was an absolute nightmare all day so it's just nice to get that one done," Porte said the stage won by Marcel Kittel. "Tomorrow is a bit of an unknown to be honest. It's kind of a finish that we don't normally do in the Tour de France, a 12km climb and then a bit of a plateau to the finish so I'm not sure what's going to happen there so it should be interesting."
The stage 8 finish at Station des Rousses has only featured once before at the Tour, in 2010 when Sylvain Chavanel won the stage, while Chambery the following day is yet to host a stage finish. The Criterium du Dauphine's sixth stage this year though was similar to the Tour's stage 9 with the inclusion of Mont du Chat.
"This weekend is the first real big shake up. We have climb after climb on Sunday and I think it's going to be a hard weekend for everyone. You just have to see how it will be raced. There is a fair distance to the finish after the climb on Sunday so it could be a negative race," said Porte.
Currently sitting fifth on the standings, 39 seconds down on Chris Froome, Porte will be hoping to have closed the gap and moved ahead of his former teammate before the bigger tests to come in the Alps and Pyrenees.
Simon Yates unsure what to expect in the mountains
Currently leading the best young rider classification by 24 seconds over Pierre Latour (AG2R-La Mondiale), Simon Yates (Orica-Scott) is keen to extend his stay in white into the second week of the Tour de France but first, must navigate two testing days in the Jura Mountains.
The 24-year-old, in his third Tour de France, moved into the white jersey lead, and sixth overall, after stage 5 to La Planche des Belles Filles and successfully defending the classification on two long hot sprint days ahead of stage 8 to Station des Rousses.
“The beginning of the day was nice and relaxed, just how I like it, but it didn't last long. There was a small chance there was going to be crosswinds and it was going to split so it was a stressful day trying to stay in good position all of the time," Yates said of the stage won by Marcel Kittel. "The team did a good job for me today, I was just following the wheels.
"We didn't want to take any chances there when we came into the final stretch and the best place to be is in front. We did that the best we could until a few kilometres to go and then for me it's OK with the safety of the three-kilometre rule."
With Orica-Scott teammate Esteban Chaves 2:44 minutes down on race leader Chris Froome, Yates is the best-placed GC rider to Orica-Scott. Looking ahead to the weekend in the Jura, Yates explained that he could see both a breakaway staying to the line and the GC riders fighting it out for the stage wins and important bonus seconds.
"It's going to be an interesting day tomorrow. I'm not sure if the break will go or if with the time bonuses there, maybe it could be a really hard day," Yates said. "The day after is a monster of a stage so maybe there will be some guys trying to save themselves for that. It's hard to judge, we will have to see."
McLay needs to "trust himself" in future Tour sprints
British sprinter Dan McLay enjoyed a breakout debut Tour de France last year with four top-ten results in the first week of the race. McLay's second Tour with French Pro-Continental squad Fortuneo-Oscaro has been less of a success so far with eighth place his best result.
That result came on stage 6 into Troyes with Marcel Kittel claiming the win. Stage 7 saw Kittel claim a third win of the Tour while McLay dropped down to tenth and explained he is currently lacking the self-confidence required to be challenging for the sprint wins.
"It was a very fast final, I tried to stay in the wheel for as long as possible and finally I waited a little too long before starting my sprint. I found myself stuck against the barriers," McLay said of the finish in Nuits-Saint-Georges.
"It was my fault, I should have been more confident and started my sprint earlier. But, I am far from discouraged for the future, quite the contrary. I will suffer for the next two days. I have prepared for it, and then I will try to make the perfect sprint."
McLay will have the opportunity to sprint for a stage win in Bergerac and Pau where he will aim to repay the work of his teammates.
The whole team does an incredible job for me, I just have to trust myself," he added. "There is a strong group of very good sprinters this year, which we saw today, but a surprise is not impossible."
Demare loses green jersey lead to Marcel Kittel
With Marcel Kittel taking his second Tour de France stage win in as many days and FDJ's Arnaud Demare finishing 11th in Nuits-Saint-Georges, the German has moved back into the green points lead. Demare took the lead after his stage win in Vittel but with Kittel claiming a third win of the race, Demare now trails the German by 15 points.
The French national champion explained post-stage that he had an off day and is still coming to terms with his increased media personality.
"I felt good, then not good, then good again. In the end I felt better. But we made our move a little bit too early and we bowed in the last kilometre," Demare said. "Afterwards I managed to be back in the wheels but I felt it was going to be complicated. This first week was hard with the media pressure, you waste a lot of time to recuperate. I'm learning."
With multiple sprint wins still on the table for the fastmen in the second and third weeks, Demare added that he will be confident of adding to his win having seen Kittel only narrowly hold off Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data).
"Today was a sprint for Kittel. With a long straight line like this, he is hard to beat. Still he won by the blink of an eye over Boasson-Hagen, which shows he's human," he said.
Tour de France stage 8 video preview