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Tour de France 2012: Stage 8

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There are seven climbs on the agenda today but a flat run-into the finish line.

Hello and welcome back to the climbing portion of the Tour de France! We have seven, yes seven, ranked climbs to tackle today.  Who will be left up front when they come to those four flat kms at the end?

The riders are in the neutralized section right now. We see blue sky but lots of clouds lurking.

Matt Lloyd of Lampre is the first to hit the ground today. He had a difference of opinion with a roundabout.

And this is even the second time he has crashed in the neurtralized section during the Tour!

We still see lots of riders sporting enormous quantities of gauze and adhesive tape. We are just glad they are still with us.

And here is Lloyd trying to make his way back up to the field...

Race director Christian Prudhomme apparently delayed the sharp start until Lloyd caught up. But now they are really underway.

Jens Voigt (RadioShack) is one of the first to jump. Let's see if anyone actually gets away this early.

153km remaining from 157km

A Katusha rider is the next to crash. He has a run-in with some road furniture. It is Vladimir Gusev.

The Voigt group of 10 or so looks to have a little gap. We will try to get names.

Gusev may have been injured in that crash. We are not sure if he is up and going again.

Gusen is indeed back on his bike, but is at the race doctor's car for some care.

We now hear that Johannes Fröhlinger of Argos-Shimano did not start today. He had broken a finger on Friday.

This should be the list of riders in the break: Gilbert (BMC), Voigt (RNT), Perez (EUS), Millar (GRS), Riblon (ALM), Westra (VCD), Sanchez (RAB), Costa (MOV), N.Sorensen (STB), Chavanel (OPQ), abd Curvers (ARG)

We still don't have a time gap for this group.

Gorka Verduga of Euskaltel is behind the field at the moment. He had a very bad cut to his leg in Friday's crash.

138km remaining from 157km

Astana leads the case, with the gap now at 30 seconds. Are more riders already falling off the back of the peloton?

Thomas Voeckler as we know him: taking off out of the field in chase of the group.

Voigt now alone in the lead! The rest of the group now has been caught.

And Voigt grabs himself a mountain point! Yes, we just had the first of the seven ranked climbs. This was only category 4, though.

And let's go ahead and take a look at those climbs:

Km 20.0 - Côte de Bondeval (4ª): 4.4 km / 3.9%
Km 32.0 - Côte du Passage de la Douleur (3ª): 3.8 km / 6.4%
Km 50.0 - Côte de Maison-Rouge (2ª): 7.9 km / 5%
Km 73.0 - Côte de Saignelégier (2ª): 7.8 km / 6.1%
Km 97.0 - Côte de Saulcy (2ª): 4.6 km / 8.6%
Km 130.5 - Côte de la Caquerelle (2ª): 4.3 km / 7.6%
Km 141.5 - Col de la Croix (1ª): 3.7 km / 9.2%
 

PIerrick Fedrigro of FDJ-Big Mat takes off in pursuit.

And, yes, a number of riders are already dropping off the back of the field.

The 40-year-old Schleck is putting on a good show for the youngsters chasing him.

There looks to be no organized chase in the peloton, or for that matter, no organization at all. A handful of riders are dotted out ahead of the field in chase of Voigt.

It is a short stage, by the way, only 157 kms.  That is why we are getting off to a slightly later start.

It looks as if the grupetto has already formed, around Andre Greipel. There is a group with a large gap to the peloton.

128km remaining from 157km

We have another large chase group, about 30 seconds behind Voigt, with the peloton at 53 seconds.

The chasers are Albasini (OGE), Urtasun (EUS), Marzano (LAM), Riblon (ALM), Valls (VCD), Casar (FDJ), Fofonov (AST), Paulinho (RNT), and Huguet (ARG).

Although we must say the situation is very fluid at the moment.

We are now on the second climb already: Côte du Passage de la Douleur (3ª): 3.8 km / 6.4%.

Bernhard Eisel and Mark Cavendish have just dropped back out of the peloton. Two fewer helpers for yellow jersey Wiggins.

Lots and lots of fans along the roadside, all cheering on Voigt.

He takes the mountain points. Two chasers are not terribly far behind them, one is Chris Anker Sorensen of Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank.

Peter Weening of Orica-GreenEdge is the one with Sorensen.

Check out the Cyclingnews stage preview, complete with a video of Chris Boardman and his view on the day. 

Sorensen and Weening have been caught, and a new chase group is trying to form.

Robert Gesink of Rabobank is at the tail end of the field.

118km remaining from 157km

Several riders are now catching up with Voigt.

The chasers have caught Voigt, it looks like.

Unfortunately we don't have any names for you yet.

There are about 10 riders up front now, but the field is very close behind.

They are now on the day's third climb, Km 50.0 - Côte de Maison-Rouge (2ª): 7.9 km / 5%.

This is what sprinter Mark Renshaw tweeted about today's stage: Today has the potential to be the hardest stage in the this years Tour. Depends how many guys think they should or can be in the break.

We now hear that there is a group of 11 or 12, including Voigt, with an 11 or 12 second lead on the field.

112km remaining from 157km

Voigt doesn't like that and takes off again. Steven Krujswijk of Rabobank is in the lead, but the wily German is catching up.

And this is what NIcolas Roche had to say, on his twitter account: hard day in perspective. Many kom.I see a 8 to 10 rider breakaway go all the way to the finish, unless @TeamSky have other plans.

There are actually two groups between Voigt/Kruijswijk and the peloton, but the time gaps are so narrow it is hardly worth the effort to get the names.

Edvald Boasson Hagen is leading the peloton. We expect to see him in that position a lot today.

Everyone is coming closer together now. In fact, the two leaders have been caught.

Kadri of AG2R now has a minimal lead over the field, and takes the next set of top mountain points.

Kadri has now been caught by a large chase group, but they have only 23 seconds on the field.

The Tour goes into its third country today. At km 63.5, we cross the border from France to Switzerland.

Many of the classifications had major changes after yesterday's dramatic mountaintop finish. Let's take a look at them.

In GC, Brad Wiggins now lead Cadel Evans by 10 seconds, with Vincenzo Nibali third at 16 seconds.

1     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     34:21:20      
2     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     0:00:10      
3     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     0:00:16      
4     Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     0:00:32      
5     Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team     0:00:54      
6     Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan     0:00:59      
7     Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan     0:01:09      
8     Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale     0:01:22      
9     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     0:01:32      
10     Michael Rogers (Aus) Sky Procycling     0:01:40      
 

There are 24 riders in the lead group, including Voigt, but the gap is only 14 seconds.

Jeremy Roy of FDJ-Big Mat is the next to take off. He is now in the lead.

Roy flies down this long descent.

Crash, with Alejandro Valverde and Samuel Sanchez. The latter looks to be injured.

Sanchez is definitely injured, we are sorry to say.

Valverde seems to be ok and is on his way back to the peloton.

Sanchez has hurt his left shoulder or collarbone. Hard to believe, but they are repairing his bike. Will he really get back on?

Sanchez is still sitting on the road, crying from pain and frustration.

Roy has 18 seconds on his next chasers, with the peloton at 57 seconds and Valverde at over two minutes.

Peter Sagan still leads the points competition.

1     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     217      pts
2     Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) Orica GreenEdge Cycling Team     185      
3     André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol Team     172      
4     Mark Cavendish (GBr) Sky Procycling     129      
5     Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD     109      
6     Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling     95      
7     Tom Veelers (Ned) Argos-Shimano     76      
8     Fabian Cancellara (Swi) RadioShack-Nissan     74      
9     Kenny Robert Van Hummel (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team     69      
10     Juan José Haedo (Arg) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     68     

Sanchez is now being loaded on to a stretcher. This is a very sorry end to the Tour for the Euskaltel rider.

Johnny Hoogerland is one of many who had dropped back. He is having some knee problems.

89km remaining from 157km

Valverde pays a visit to the race doctor's car.

Roy has now started his way up the fourth climb of the day, the Côte de Saignelégier (2ª): 7.8 km / 6.1%.

Voigt is finally back in the peloton, for the first time today since the start.

Wiggins at the back of the field. We understand he had a mechanical. No panic, though, he is rolling his way back up.

Valverde has caught the peloton now, too.

We had major changes in the mountain classification, of course.  Christopher Froome has taken the lead, with former KOM Michael Morkov dropping to fourth.

1     Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling     20      pts
2     Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team     16      
3     Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling     12      
4     Michael Morkov (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     9      
5     Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     8      
6     Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank     4      
7     Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     4      
8     Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale     2      
9     Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale     2      
10     David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne     2      
 

And also on this climb we have an impressive number of fans. They are attacking advantage of the lovely weather and the weekend.

The gap back to the peloton is now 2:22. Not sure where the chase group is.

Roy heads to the summit, and takes five points. But Kessiakoff has jumped out of the chase group and is only seconds behind him.

We had thought we saw Hoogerland falling off the back of the peloton earlier, but now we are told he took third points at the mountain ranking.

Roy and Kessiakoff are now together at the front.

Sounds like things are ultra-serious these days on the Lotto Belisol team. Adam Hansen has tweeted:

 I have a bet with @AndreGreipel. If Sagans win 2day I must ride a lap in Paris wearing boardshorts & flipflops. If Sagan loses, Andre must.

Mr @AndreGreipel is getting nervous.... I think he realises that he will be the one riding the lap in Paris in boardshorts and flipflops :)

The peloton has now reached the feeding zone. Bon appetit!

The chase group is now at 1 minute and consists of Moinard, Gallopin, Voigt, Kern, Hoogerland, Izaguirre, Marzano, Nerz, Peraud, Kadri, Moncoutie, Jeandesboz, Valls Ferri, Vorganov, Pinot, Kruiswijk, Kiriyienka, Sorensen, Kisierlovski and Weening.

Although we are not sure that all those names are accurate.

Things seem to have settled into a set routine for the moment.

RadioShack-Nissan has watched its Tour leaders fall one by one: Andy Schleck out before the race even started; Fränk Schleck finishing way behind in the prologue; and then Schleck and Andreas Klöden finishing further down that hoped in yesterday's stage. Does this leave the team with no captain at all?

And speaking of Klöden, he seems to have a disagreement with the RadioShack PR folks.  In fact, he tweeted, “I don't know what bullshit they write in the RSNT press release”.

Mark is here now to step in for me for a few minutes.

Thanks Susan. Mark taking over here for the next few kilometres.

I have confirmation of the first chase group: Moinard (BMC), Gallopin (RNT), Kern (EUC), Marzano (LAM), Nerz (LIQ), Peraud (ALM), Cherel (ALM), Kadri (ALM), Moncoutie (COF), Jeandesboz (SAU), Hoogerland (VCD), Valls Ferri (VCD), Caruso (KAT), Pinot (FDJ), Kruiswijk (RAB), Mollema (RAB), Ten Dam (RAB), Kiriyenka (MOV), Sorensen (STB), Kisierlovski (AST), De Weert (OPQ), Weening (OGE)

65km remaining from 157km

The chase group have reduced the gap on the leaders to under 50 seconds, but the peloton is not letting them get too far away.

And the leaders are on to the next categorised climb. It's the Cote de Saulcy and is another category 2

And Kiryrienka, Kruiswijk and De Weert have attacked from the first chase group and are trying to bridge the gap to the leading duo.

Our own Peter Cossins managed to grab a quick chat with race leader Bradley Wiggins this morning. Here's what he had to say about today's stage:

 

"It’s a tough day but the climbs aren’t really that hard. It’s not a full on mountain day, so I don’t know what to expect. You just take what comes on the road really. As I’ve said in the past, I’m not trying to think too much anymore, you can think too much about these things. We’ll just see how it pans out on the road."

 

 

60km remaining from 157km

And Kessiakoff has attacked and gone clear. He has opened up a small gap on his own in front.

That comes just after De Weert and Kruiswijk catch him and Roy

Kern and Pinot have also bridged the gap now

RESULT - 5TH CLIMB:

 

1. Kessiakoff (AST) 5pts

2. Pinot (FDJ) 3pts

3. Kern (EUC) 2pts

4. Kruiswijk (RAB) 1pt

And Susan has returned...

Susan back again,and thanks, Mark.

How does a pro cyclist view the Tour?  Here is Adam Hansen's take on things:

Wakeup➜Eat➜Go2start➜Start Race➜Feel massive amounts of pain➜Repeat last step➜Finish➜Hotel➜Massage➜Eat➜Worry about 2morrow➜Sleep➜Repeat X 21
 

Peter Cossins also taked to Garmin-Sharp DS Allan Peiper, who said, “I think we regrouped really well yesterday. It was good to see Zabriskie and David Millar on the front, and Christian Vande Velde as well, just trying to give Dan Martin a good chance at the bottom of the climb. It’s his first time in the Tour de France. He’s won a stage in the Vuelta before, so we were hoping he’d be able to stay with the front group. He did hang in there until halfway up the climb, but that’s a learning process for him.”

50km remaining from 157km

The peloton catches some riders who have fallen back from the chase group.

Kessiakoff has gone through the intermediate sprint, and now the chasers follow him across the line.

No sprinting for points today at the intermediate sprint!

Before the start today, Garmin-Sharp's Peiper also told us, "The boys were quite ecstatic after the finish because they were still in the race and they still had ambitions and goals. A lot of teams will be thinking that a group will stay away until the finish today because there’s a time trial tomorrow. They will be trying to put riders in the break, which is the same thing that we’ll be trying to do with Vande Velde or Dan Martin.

"There’s a lot of GPM points up for grabs so it’s possibly a good stage for Dan Martin. But it’s not easy to get in those breakaways. Twenty-one other teams have the same idea of getting into the break so it won’t be all that easy, but we’ll give it a good shot and try to get someone out there."

With 44km to go, Kessikoff has 1:05 over the chase group and about 3 minutes on the field. But we still have two more climbs to come.

We hear that Samuel Sanchez has broken his right hand and his left collarbone. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Sanchez also dislocated his shoulder. We will have more later.

We now see a Liquigas rider at the head of the field. They have moved up to help lead the chase, although we see that the gap has crept up to 3:20.

Lots of Liquigas at the head of the field now. They have taken control of the chase, as they would love for Peter Sagan to win again.

30km remaining from 157km

And now we have hit the day's penultimate climb, the Côte de la Caquerelle (2ª): 4.3 km / 7.6%.

The chasers are at 1:45 and the peloton at 3:24.

Speaking in Belfort before the start of the stage, Vincenzo Nibali pondered the strength of his Liquigas-Cannondale team relative to Sky.

“Yesterday was a very difficult stage,” he said. “We hit the climb very hard and Ivan suffers a bit on climbs like that, while Szmyd was unfortunately caught behind a little bit. But they’re both going very well and they will be a big help to me.

“Richie Porte set a great rhythm for Sky yesterday but now they have the yellow jersey and they’re going to have to work a lot to hold on to that. As for me, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be difficult, but nothing is impossible.”

This climb seems to be breaking up the chase group. The peloton is suffering as well.

Directly behind the florescent green Liquigas jerseys at the head of the peloton, we see a yellow one -- Bradley Wiggins.

Gallopin and Pinot now first chasers, at 1:13.

Kessiakoff takes the mountain points.

Did we mention Pinot? Cyclingnews talked to the French climber this morning before the stage.

Pinot and Gallopin now approach the mountain banner and cross under it with a gap of just under one minute.

Kessiakoff is out of the saddle, hunched down over the bike and tearing along.

The young Swede has his eye on this stage win, that's for sure.

Here is how the points were awarded at the most recent mountain ranking:


1 Kessiakoff (AST) 5 points
2 Pinot (FDJ) 3
3 Gallopin (RNT) 2
4 C.A.Sorensen (STB) 1

20km remaining from 157km

Gallopin and Pinto pass under the 20km marker.

We still have one more climb to go, the category one Col de la Croix.  It has an average gradient of 9.2%, with sections of 13, 15 and even 17 percent.

Kessiakoff no longer looks as easy and relaxed as earlier.

BMC along with Cadel Evans move up towards the front of the peloton.

PInot now moves slowly away from Gallopin.

Yesterday's stage finish with Sky's Brad Wiggins and Christopher Froome on the climb sure brought back memories of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana.  But don't look for Froome to finish ahead of Wiggins in this race.  Whilst Froome was “really happy” with his stage win, he assured everyone that this year the plan is “to look after Bradley.”

Lotto moves to the head of the peloton. No, they are not working for Greipel today, but rather for Van Den Broeck.

Looks like that was it for Peter Sagan. He has just dropped off the back of the field.

PInto is only 4:07 down on GC, so he could make a big jump today. He is also in the running for best young rider.

Sorry, that is of course Pinot and not Pinto.

16km remaining from 157km

Pinto catches and passes Kessiakoff!

And again, hundreds if not thousands of fans enjoying this spectacle!

PInot takes the final mountain points of the day! Kesiakoff is a few seconds behind, and the peloton is rapidly approaching, at 1:48.

A group of 8 or so riders has broken out of the peloton, including not only Van Den Broeck but also Evans, Wiggins and Froome.

Their furious pace is bringing the gap to Pinot down.

From three minutes to one and a half.  Pinot is now pedaling for his life.

It looks as if Kessiakoff will take over the KOM jersey today.

Kessiakoff slips out and manages to catch himself.

Behind them, Nibali now leads the small favourites' group.

More riders have now moved up into the group of favourites.

9km remaining from 157km

We still have Pinot in the lead ahead of Kessiakoff, with the favourites' group at about a minute to a minute and a half back.

Fränk Shleck is in the Wiggins group, as is Denis Menchov.

6km remaining from 157km

It is flat from here out. Not sure how much of a lead Pinot has over Kessiakoff. But whatever it is, will it be enough to hold off the group of favourites? Or will that group be happy to let the stage win go today, as long as none of them gets an advantage?

The FDJ DS is about to destroy the team car, he is so excited at the prospect of winning this stage.

5km remaining from 157km

Pinot continues to solo in under the 5km marker. But the favourites group is at 54 seconds.

As best as we can tell, the favourites group includes: Evans, Schleck, Gallopin, Horner, Zubeldia, Nibali, Wiggins, Froome, Van Den Broeck, and Menchov.

4km for Pinot and the field at 40 seconds. They are about to catch Kessiakoff.

PInot maneuvers his way around road furniiture and a roundabout.

Only one of the favourites group took the short way through that complicated intersection and now has a slight lead over his companions.

Pinot takes 35 seconds into the closing 2 km.

It was Van Den Brouck who had the lead.

The FDJ team manager is about to fall out of the car window....

The last km for Pinot!

Evans and VDB have jumped from the group!

A dinosaur in the middle of the roundabout!

And it is enough for Pinot! He takes the win for FDJ-Big Mat!

 

The favourites group is all back together as they near the finish line.

Evans passes Gallopin to take second on the stage.

Small groups of riders are now coming in. Taaramae will probably hold on to the best young rider jersey, but Pinot will surely have moved up in that ranking.

Pinot, at 22 years old, is the youngest in the Tour this year, and riding his first Tour. What a thrill this must be!

FDJ manager Marc Madriot may be even happier than Pinot!

Another group comes in. This sort of thing will go on for a long time now.

Here is the top ten from today's stage:

1 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 3:56:10
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:26
3 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:26
4 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:26
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:26
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:00:26
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:26
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:26
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:26
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:30

And the top five in GC:
 
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 38:17:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:16
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:54
5 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:59

How nice to see the pure joy of this young stage winner, and the excitement of his team manager. We send them our congratulations.

We also send our sympathies and best wishes to Samuel Sanchez, who had to leave the Tour today after suffering serious injuries in a crash.

Thanks for reading along.  Join us again tomorrow for the first real time trial of this year's Tour!

Before we go, here is the top ten in GC after stage eight:

1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 38:17:56
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:10
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale 0:00:16
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team 0:00:54
5 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan 0:00:59
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:32
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan 0:02:08
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team 0:02:11
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale 0:02:21
10 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne 0:02:27

That's it! Catch us again tomorrow!

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