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Tour de France 2013: Stage 8


Stage 8 of the Tour de France, 195km from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines.

The first day in the Pyrenees marks the first major rendezvous of the Tour de France. We mightn’t know who will win the Tour this evening, so the adage goes, but we’ll certainly get a pretty strong idea of who won’t. It’s a gentle beginning to proceedings as the peloton meanders southwards from Castres but the terrain shifts dramatically after the intermediate sprint at Quillan (119.5km) as the race heads for the Ariège and the high mountains. There are two on the menu today – the summit of the hors categorie Col de Pailhères (15.3km at 8%) comes after 166km and that is followed in rapid succession by the 7.8km haul to the finish atop the category 1 climb of Ax 3 Domaines.

The riders are currently in the neutralised zone as they roll out of Castres and the flag should drop around 11.45 CET. It will be interesting to see if there are many willing early attackers. Yesterday's stage, marked by Cannondale's ferocious pace-making, was a brutally quick affair considering the rugged terrain. Many riders will have paid for those efforts and they'll be silently praying for something of a truce early on today.

Serene blue skies overhead and the temperature is a pleasant 25 degrees Celsius, although that will rise as the afternoon draw on.

The complexion of general classification should be altered dramatically this afternoon but let's remind ourselves of the lie of the land at close of business yesterday. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) holds yellow, 3 seconds ahead of Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).

Top 10:

1 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge 27:12:29
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:03
3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge 0:00:05
4 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge
5 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 0:00:06
6 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:00:08
8 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:00:14
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff

Chris Froome (Sky) is the best-placed of the favourites for final overall victory, and he lies 8 seconds off yellow, on the same time as his stable mate and fellow podium contender Richie Porte.

Alberto Contador is just 6 seconds behind Froome after his Saxo-Tinkoff outfit put in a very solid team time trial, while the Garmin-Sharp leading troika of Ryder Hesjedal, Dan Martin and Andrew Talansky is a little further back, 22 seconds off the yellow jersey.

Movistar's Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana are 25 seconds down, Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen (BMC) are 31 seconds down and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard) is a further 3 seconds back. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) lies 41st overall at 47 seconds but the French climbing talent should glide up the standings this afternoon.

193km remaining from 195km

The race is underway with no overnight abandons to report, and as soon as the flag is dropped, Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) goes on the offensive. Even by their own standards, Vacansoleil have been very aggressive on this Tour but with precious little to show for it so far.

Hoogerland has some company in the shape of Jean-Marc Marino (Sojasun), while Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) are trying to forge across.

186km remaining from 195km

Hoogerland and Marino have almost a minute in hand on the peloton, while Riblon and Molard are still caught in no-man's land, 15 seconds behind the two leaders and frantically trying to prevent their tickets for the échappée matinale bus from flapping away.

184km remaining from 195km

Ouf. Molard and Riblon are safely aboard the bus, tickets stamped, and our four escapees have stretched their lead out to 2:30 over the peloton.

A former rider who knows more than most about the Pyrenees is Robert Millar. The Scot won three stages in the Pyrenees - to Luchon in 1983 after conquering the "Circle of Death," at Guzet-Neige in 1984 en route to the mountains prize and at Superbagneres in 1989 after blowing the race apart with Pedro Delgado and Charly Mottet. Fortunately for all of us at Cyclingnews, Millar now pens the most insightful blog on the Tour and you can read the latest installment here.

175km remaining from 195km

After 20 kilometres of racing, the four escapees have padded their advantage out to 7:30 over a peloton that is more than happy to call a truce at least until the road begins to climb in earnest.

Riblon began the day 61st overall at 4:49, and he is currently the maillot jaune virtuel. Orica-GreenEdge know that Daryl Impey won't hold yellow tonight and thus have no motivation to chase, so in theory Riblon has the chance to build up a big lead before we hit the high mountains. And, of course, he has happy memories of Ax 3 Domaines already - he won the stage there the last time the Tour visited in 2010.

168km remaining from 195km

The leaders have crossed over the first climb of the day, the category 4 Côte de Saint-Ferréol, where Molard claimed the lone king of the mountains point on offer.

Orica-GreenEdge are leading the peloton but they are sticking to a very sensible pace early on, and they're happy to let the break stretch its advantage out to 8 minutes.

153km remaining from 195km

Hoogerland, Riblon, Marino and Molard have stretched their lead out to 9 minutes over the peloton as they head towards Peyrens. They're in the course of building up a significant buffer before they hit the high mountains, but of course, the tempo in the main field will ratchet up dramatically then too.

The first summit finish was usually the moment when Lance Armstrong looked to seize command of the Tour and though they don't appreciate the comparisons, Sky's playbook is very, very similar to that of US Postal. Speaking yesterday, Chris Froome did little to dispell the expectation that Sky will look to take up the pace-making duties on the Col de Pailhères and Ax 3 Domaines later on.

"We've got a pretty well established style of racing already and I don't see us doing anything differently. Obviously in the heat of the race you've got to be able to make those calls in the last few kilometres and I'm sure it's going to come down to that tomorrow," said Froome, and you can watch the full interview here.


145km remaining from 195km

Riblon and Company covered a brisk 44.3 kilometres in the first hour of racing and the peloton is currently clipping along some nine minutes back on the four leaders.

In spite of the tired legs from a hectic first week of racing, there is plenty of nervous energy in the peloton today ahead of the first major sort-out of the general classification. Dan Benson and Laura Fletcher caught up with Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) for this

on the eve of the Tour's entry into the mountains. The American Tour debutant is flanked by Dan Martin and Ryder Hesjedal in a Garmin-Sharp squad that has promised to be aggressive and, in the words of manager Jonathan Vaughters, "create chaos."

133km remaining from 195km

Sky, on the other hand, are dedicated to the elimination of chaos as they seek to create something of a controlled environment in the high mountains, and as if on cue, they have come to the front of the peloton to lend a hand to Orica-GreenEdge.

Away from the race parcours, French police

this morning and spent two hours checking its contents before allowing it to continue on its way to tonight's hotel.

Scarcely a Tour goes by without the French police checking in on RadioShack, and last year Frank Schleck even took the step of presenting himself before police in Pau in response to his positive test for Xipamide. Scheck has just been informed that he is persona non grata on the RadioShack team when his ban expires on July 14, and (now former) teammate Maxime Monfort is sympathetic to his plight.

119km remaining from 195km

The break's lead has dropped to 8:15 but they should still have a sizeable margin by the time they hit the slopes of the Pailhères.

Meanwhile, Matteo Bono has abandoned the Tour and is the second Lampre-Merida rider in as many days to withdraw after Adriano Malori was forced to give best to his back injury on the road to Albi yesterday.

Bono was among the riders caught up in the crash in the opening kilometres of yesterday's stage and it seems that the Italian has not recovered from the injuries he picked up there. 187 riders remain in the Tour as we inch towards the Pyrenees.

108km remaining from 195km

Today's stage is the first installment in a Pyrenean double header but Cadel Evans (BMC) reckons that the descent to the finish tomorrow means that the real shake-up should come at Ax 3 Domaines this afternoon. In spite of the high speeds of the past two days, Evans said that the opening week of the Tour has proved far more difficult in years gone by. "For the most part, the GC riders are riding really conservatively, not really trying to get into the breakaways, which means that the start hasn't been as difficult as they have been in past years," he said, and you can read Stephen Farrand's story here.

The four leaders have 8 minutes in hand on the peloton as they pass through Limoux, where Thomas Voeckler quietly sat reading about his exploits in yellow in L'Equipe before a stage start two years ago. Christophe Riblon, our maillot jaune virtuel, would love the chance to emulate such a pose tomorrow morning but it's a big ask.

The four leaders have 8 minutes in hand on the peloton as they pass through Limoux, where Thomas Voeckler quietly sat reading about his exploits in yellow in L'Equipe before a stage start two years ago. Christophe Riblon, our maillot jaune virtuel, would love the chance to emulate such a pose tomorrow morning but it's a big ask.

97km remaining from 195km

Indeed, that advantage is steadily begin to tumble, and after almost 100km of racing, the gap between the break and the peloton is down to 7:20.

As the race draws closer to the foot of the Col de Pailhères and the Tour's entry into the Pyrenees, Sky are continuing to aid Orica-GreenEdge in keeping tabs on the break's lead.

85km remaining from 195km

In spite of his fractured pelvis, Geraint Thomas (Sky) is setting the tempo on the front of the peloton, and his efforts have helped Orica-GreenEdge close the escapees's advantage to a shade over six minutes.

Jean-Marc Marino (Sojasun), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Christophe Riblon (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) still have a harmonious working relationship at the head of the race but with 35km to go to the foot of the Col de Pailhères, their lead has already been cut to 5:50.

75km remaining from 195km

Dutch champion Johnny Hoogerland leads the break through the intermediate sprint at Quillan. From here on in, the road begins to rise as the race heads towards the Pyrenees.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) will presumably look to sweep up the points for 5th place, although yesterday's win has already given him a commanding lead in the points competition. Cannondale are winding up the pace in the main field ahead of the sprint.

Cannondale provide the lead-out but Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) wins the sprint for 5th ahead of Sagan and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). Sagan won't be losing any sleep over that, he still retains a buffer of 95 points over Greipel.

70km remaining from 195km

Johnny Hoogerland is bruised and bandaged from his crash earlier in the week but he is still trying to breathe life into this break even though the bunch has closed the gap to within 5 minutes after that sprint.

“I think nearly everyone crashed already in the first week but I’m ok,” Hoogerland said before the start. “The question of day is whether the GC guys want to go for the yellow jersey or not. Do they just want to test each other on the last climb or fight for the victory? It could be that ten riders can go free and they fight for the stage win or the GC guys shut everything down. Sky, Saxo, Movistar, they’re the ones that will decide it.”

Right now, it looks as if the GC riders will indeed bring the escapees back once the climbing begins in earnest but Hoogerland continues to rage against the dying of that light.

Svein Tuft is leading the peloton for now as Orica-GreenEdge control affairs out of deference to the yellow jersey rather than with any real aspirations of defending it. Daryl Impey is enjoying what will surely be his second and final day in the overall lead.

Chris Froome is the favourite to take over the maillot jaune this afternoon but Sky will have to drop best young rider Michal Kwiatowski (5th at 6 seconds) if they are to do so. The Pole’s directeur sportif Rolf Aldag assessed his chances of assuming the overall lead this morning.

“He invested some energy already in lead-outs and yellow was never really the task,” Aldag said. “We’ll see how far he gets but today is going to be difficult. It’s one of the days where it’s long and flat but the Tour favourites might not want to have the jersey so early.

“It would be crazy for Michal to try and get in the break, he has to ride conservatively but how long he can last, I have no idea. He has to find his own rhythm and we’ll put everyone next to him to support him as good as possible but we have to see what we can do. It’s really more about him riding his own tempo and not over doing it.

“I have no clue what the GC guys are going to do today. When you see some of them like Froome attacking like he did early in the race, you really start wondering when did you start winning a Tour by being so aggressive so early. I think you win the Tour by waiting and waiting and then going just when you have to.”

62km remaining from 195km

Sky are beginning to mass on the front of the peloton, with Geraint Thomas setting the tempo, although it's interesting to see Belkin forming a train beside them in support of Bauke Mollema. The pace is going to ratchet up dramatically as the peloton draws closer to the foot of the Pailhères and anyone unprepared for the transition to the little ring is going to suffer accordingly.

The four escapees wind their way through the scenic gorges of the Aude river with a lead of 4:20 over the peloton.

Back in the main field, there is plenty of jostling for position, as if it were the approach to the Arenberg Forest rather than a 15-kilometre mountain pass. Saxo-Tinkoff have seen the Sky presence in front and have duly decided that now is as good a time as any for Alberto Contador to move up.

The Pailhères is not just the first hors categorie mountain pass of the Tour, at 2001 metres, it is also the highest point of the race and the first man across the top will collect the Souvenir Henri Desgrange.

56km remaining from 195km

A shade over 10 kilometres from the foot of the climb and the break's lead has dropped to 3:35 due to the injection of pace in the peloton behind.

In honour of the Tour's entry into the Pyrenees, Cyclingnews has put together this

looking back over the race's history in these mountains.

53km remaining from 195km

When the Tour visited Ax 3 Domaines in 2010, Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck famously slowed down and marked one another rather than chase the moves of Samuel Sanchez and Denis Menchov. Three years on, Contador seems more concerned by Chris Froome, and he casts a quick glance across at the Sky leader as he takes a swig from his bidon. Sky and Saxo-Tinkoff both have strong delegations towards the front of the peloton as we approach the foot of the Pailhères.

51km remaining from 195km

Sky and Belkin have done the bulk of the work on the front in the last ten minutes, according to the on-screen graphics provided by France Televisions. Their combined efforts have slashed the break's lead to 2:30 and stretched out the peloton considerably.

49km remaining from 195km

This long false flat before the foot of the climb proper is already taking its toll on many in the peloton. Up ahead, the trigger happy Johnny Hoogerland tries to jump away from his fellow escapees but is quickly brought to heel. Their lead over the fast-closing peloton is now just a shade over two minutes.

Hoogerland and Marino ride with their jerseys unzipped and flapping, the modern era's signifier of the Tour's entry into the mountains.

47km remaining from 195km

Edvald Boasson Hagen leads the bunch for Sky, but lead-out trains - so to speak - from Belkin and Saxo-Tinkoff are also lined up alongside him.

44km remaining from 195km

Riblon leads the break as they begin the ascent in earnest with 1:06 in hand on the speeding peloton.

As soon as the road kicks up, Riblon attacks and moves clear of his companions. He pulled a similar move on this very climb en route to stage victory in 2010, but on that occasion he began the ascent with 4 minutes in hand on the bunch.

At the rear of the bunch, the polka dot jersey of Blel Kadri has been distanced and he is caught up in the convoy of team cars.

Riblon battles gamely at the head of the race but the speed is already hotting up in the main peloton, with Peter Sagan among the riders unceremoniously dumped out of the back.

The remnants of the break are being swept up by the bunch, which still includes maillot jaune Daryl Impey. Riblon grinds on alone, one minute up the road.

43km remaining from 195km

David Millar (Garmin-Sharp) sets the tempo on the front of the bunch, which has been reduced to around 50 riders, but yellow jersey Daryl Impey is still sitting safely near the front in a group.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC), Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Sagan are among the riders who have been jettisoned off the back and the gruppetto will take shape shortly.

All of the main overall contenders seem to be accounted for in the yellow jersey group as the gradient stiffens. Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) is well placed on the wheel of David Millar and the tempo remains quite regular.

40km remaining from 195km

Robert Gesink (Belkin) attacks from the yellow jersey group, which is now being led by Sky's David Lopez, but the men in black make no reaction.

Edvald Boasson Hagen has been dropped from the yellow jersey group, but Sky still have Lopez, Vasili Kiryienka, Peter Kennaugh and Richie Porte on hand to support Chris Froome.

39km remaining from 195km

Riblin leads Gesink by 55 seconds, while the Sky-led yellow jersey group is at 1:20 with 10 kilometres still to go to the summit. Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis) is the next man dropped from the group.

The familiar bobbing figure of Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) jumps out of the yellow jersey group and chases Gesink. Voeckler is 16 minutes down overall and there is no reason for Sky or Saxo-Tinkoff to shut him down.

Kanstantin Siutsou (Sky) has also been distanced by the group of favourites, which still includes the yellow jersey of Daryl Impey.

37km remaining from 195km

Tongue out, head up, jersey flapping open, Thomas Voeckler is in typically cinematic pose as he closes in on Gesink. Riblon, meanwhile, has 1:30 in hand on the Sky-led group.

David Lopez is the next man to pop, and Froome now has just three teammates for company with 37km still to go - Kiryienka, who leads the peloton, Peter Kennaugh and Richie Porte.

A leaden-legged Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) has been dropped from the Sky-led group but Daryl Impey is exceeding all expectations and staying in there.

Voeckler puffs out his cheeks as he scans the road ahead of him for Gesink and Riblon. He is only 15 seconds down on the former but still more than a minute behind his fellow countryman Riblon.

36km remaining from 195km

The yellow jersey group is being sifted of its weaker elements, and Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) has been distanced. The Canadian is in a group of five riders and looks to be struggling.

36km remaining from 195km

Pulses quicken as Nairo Quintana (Movistar) rips out of the Sky-led group and cruises across the gap to Voeckler. That subsequent injection of pace behind has put Impey in difficulty.

35km remaining from 195km

Voeckler tries to follow Quintana for 200 metres but suffers accordingly and swing over. Quintana, meanwhile, is feathering the pedals and now has Gesink in his sights. The Colombian was one of the few men to escape Sky's clutches in the mountains last year, on the Joux Plane at the Dauphine. Is he about to repeat that feat here?

35km remaining from 195km

Impey has finally been dropped by the Kiryienka-led group but he is refusing to concede and is still digging in to try and stay in sight of the tail end of the group.

35km remaining from 195km

Quintana catches and passes Gesink, who shakes his head and waves resignedly to the cameras, like Evgeni Berzin when Michele Bartoli blasted past in the finale of Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 1998. Nothing to be done.

Alberto Contador still has Michael Rogers and at least one other Saxo-Tinkoff teammate for company in the group of favourites, while BMC's Cadel Evans and Tejay van Garderen are also still in there, along with Alejandro Valverde.

34km remaining from 195km

5km to the summit for Quintana, who is about to catch Riblon. He does so, and gestures to the Frenchman to get on his wheel. Quintana may want some company on the descent but Riblon is going to struggle to follow this pace.

Quintana eases his way out of the saddle and disappears from Riblon's sight. The Colombian is alone at the head of the Tour de France, 45 seconds clear of Chris Froome, Contador et al.

Pierre Rolland (Europcar) attacks from the group of favourites, but he is surely thinking of picking up mountains points rather than catching the flying Quintana.

32km remaining from 195km

Kiryienka continues to lead the group of favourites, which is now 0:55 behind Quintana. Gesink and Voeckler, meanwhile, have both been caught and quickly dropped by that group.

The dancing figure of Quintana continues inexorably towards the summit, his impassive face betraying no signs of suffering.

Kiryienka has been dropped by the group of favourites and it's left to Peter Kennaugh to take up the reins. Quintana's attack has done serious damage here and Chris Froome risks being isolated on the final haul to Ax 3 Domaines.

There are still four Saxo-Tinkoff riders in Contador-Froome group, which still contains around 30 riders, including Evans, van Garderen and Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard).

31km remaining from 195km

Rolland has caught and passed Riblon, while Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) has also shot out of the favourites' group in pursuit.

Kennaugh leads the favourites' group, ahead of Porte, Froome and Valverde. They're about to catch Anton and Quintana's lead seems to have steadied at around the one-minute mark.

The leadership question at BMC may well be settled early - Tejay van Garderen has been dropped by the dwindling Froome group, but Cadel Evans is still present and correct, sitting in 10th place.

Andrew Talansky, Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Andy Schleck, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alberto Contador, Nicolas Roche, Alejandro Valverde are all still in the group of favourites, which contains around 20 riders and is being led by Peter Kennaugh, Richie Porte and Chris Froome. They are 1:05 down on Nairo Quintana, who is a kilometre from the summit of the Col de Pailhères.

29km remaining from 195km

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) crosses the summit of the Pailhères in front and picks up the Souvenir Henri Desgrange on his first hors categorie climb as a Tour rider.

Pierre Rolland is second over the top some 40 seconds down on Quintana. Igor Anton is the third man to the top, just ahead of the Froome-Contador group, who trail Quintana by 1:05.

25km remaining from 195km

It's a long, sweeping descent off the Col de Pailhères and as soon as they reach the bottom, the climbing begins all over again with the 7.8km climb to Ax 3 Domaines.

Nicolas Roche was dislodged near the summit of the Pailhères and he is trying to latch back on to the Contador-Froome group on the descent.

Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) kept his powder dry on the Pailhères but descending is a weakness for the French talent and he has lost contact with the favourites on the way down.

20km remaining from 195km

Daryl Impey was four minutes down at the top of the Pailhères and he will surrender his maillot jaune tonight. Meanwhile, Peter Kennaugh is attacking this descent with gusto and he has helped to cut Quintana's lead to 44 seconds.

16km remaining from 195km

Quintana hasn't taken any particular risks on the way down but Pierre Rolland does not appear to have pegged back much ground on him. The Froome-Contador group has managed to pare his lead down to 40 seconds who knows what Quintana can conjure up once the road begins to climb again.

Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) is almost within sight of the tail end of the Contador group but it remains to be seen how much help he can offer his leader on the final ascent.

Quintana went over two months without racing in the build-up to this Tour de France. He returned to Colombia shortly after Liege-Bastogne-Liege in April and spent the bulk of the intervening period training at altitude at La Concepción in the meantime before returning to Europe the week before the Tour began.

10km remaining from 195km

Nearing the base of the descent, Pierre Rolland is closing in on Quintana, while the Kennaugh-led group of favourites is around 30 seconds back.

8km remaining from 195km

Quintana sits up and waits for Rolland as they begin the final assault of Ax 3 Domaines, and its average gradient of 8.2%. The Froome-Contador group is 25 seconds back as the climb begins.

8km remaining from 195km

After 500 metres of climbing, Quintana has decided he's had enough of Rolland's company and takes his life. He climbs out of the saddle for one, short acceleration to burst clear, and then settles back into his own infernal rhythm.

Rolland - wisely - has opted to stick to his own tempo rather than attempt to follow Quintana's deceptively languid style.

7km remaining from 195km

Peter Kennaugh is still on the front of the Froome group but his grimace suggests that his last embers are being burnt up here. Even so, his efforts have seen off the white jersey of Michal Kwiatowski.

A glum-looking Tejay van Garderen is suffering slowly at the foot of the climb, his hopes of better last year's 5th place finish in tatters.

7km remaining from 195km

Kennaugh has swung over and been replaced by Richie Porte, who is Froome's last remaining ally in this group. Pierre Rolland has been swallowed up by the reduced favourites' group.

6km remaining from 195km

Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck have been dropped Porte's pace-setting, as well as Garmin-Sharp pair Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin.

Porte accelerates sharply at the head of the dwindling Froome-Contador group, and the gap to Quintana has closed to 18 seconds.

5km remaining from 195km

Porte has whittled the group down to just five riders. He has only Froome, Contador, Valverde and Roman Kreuziger for company as they pursue Quintana.

5km remaining from 195km

Porte has shredded Quintana's advantage and he is dragging Froome, Contador, Kreuziger and Valverde across to him.

5km remaining from 195km

Porte and Froome have distanced Contador, Valverde and Kreuziger, and only Quintana can follow.

5km remaining from 195km

Froome comes through to the front and grinds away from Porte and Quintana. The two Sky riders seem to be on another planet to the rest of the race, not unlike Heras and Armstrong in the Pyrenees in 2002.

4km remaining from 195km

Porte sits on Quintana's wheel and marks him while Froome opens up a gap at the front of the race. Contador, meanwhile, is struggling even to hold the wheel of Roman Kreuziger.

4km remaining from 195km

We've seen it all now. Porte gauges that he has an extra gear to Quintana and he clips off in pursuit of Froome. Froome is 12 seconds ahead of Porte and 24 seconds ahead of Quintana.

3km remaining from 195km

While Froome and Porte ride in a race of their own up front, the rest of the overall contenders are scattered across the mountainside.

3km remaining from 195km

While Froome and Porte ride in a race of their own up front, the rest of the overall contenders are scattered across the mountainside.

3km remaining from 195km

Froome has stretched his lead out to 31 seconds over Porte and 48 seconds over Alejandro Valverde. Contador is with Mikel Nieve, Kreuziger and Bauke Mollema, and is already over a minute behind.

2km remaining from 195km

Froome's ungainly style doesn't seem at all efficient but the proof is in the pudding as he is riding into the yellow jersey at the Tour de France.

2km remaining from 195km

Kreuziger has put in a huge stint in support of Contador and they are closing in on Quintana but making no inroads into Froome's lead. Contador is 1:20 down on the Sky man.

1km remaining from 195km

Valverde is now over a minute down and there are further problems for Contador, who can no longer even hold the wheel of his teammate Kreuziger.

The grimacing Froome is closing in on stage victory and the maillot jaune, as he hauls his strikingly thin frame out the saddle once again.

1km remaining from 195km

Into the final kilometre for Chris Froome. For the second year running, he is about to win the opening mountain stage of the Tour but this time he will take yellow and put down a serious down payment on overall victory to boot.

Chris Froome (Sky) wins at Ax 3 Domaines and moves into the yellow jersey.

Richie Porte (Sky) takes second place 52 seconds down, while Valverde comes home just over a minute down in 3rd, ahead of Belkin pair Bauke Mollema and Laurens ten Dam.

It's been a major defeat for Contador, who rolls dejectedly across the line with Kreuziger and Quintana, over 1:48 down.

Joaquim Rodriguez coughed up over two minutes, while Dan Martin and Talansky came home 2:40 down.

Andy Schleck quickly realised that he couldn't follow the Sky train but he limited his losses to 3:30, as he comes home ahead of a tired Pierre Rolland.

Cadel Evans' hopes of a second Tour victory have gone up in smoke, as the Australian rolls in over four minutes down on Froome.

On general classification, only Porte lies within a minute of Froome this evening. He is 51 seconds down, while Valverde is in third, 1:25 behind.

A dejected Thibaut Pinot hits the line all of six minutes down on Froome. The eyebrow-raising damage inflicted by Porte and Froome in the final kilometres has exceeded even their expectations and is reflected by the way the beaten men have been crossing the line in ones and twos ever since.


1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 5:03:18
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:51
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:08
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:10
5 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:16
6 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:34
7 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:45
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:45
9 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:01:45
10 Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0:01:45

General classification:

1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 08:15:55
2 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:51
3 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:25
4 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:44
5 Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team 0:01:50
6 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:51
7 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:01:51
8 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 0:02:02
9 Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 0:02:31
10 Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 0:02:40

Daryl Impey put up a resolute defence of his yellow jersey and the South African crosses the line a little over seven minutes down on the day, which is a very respectable showing on this terrain.

Tejay van Garderen is led over the finish line by his teammate Steve Morabito, some 12 minutes down on Froome.

“We couldn’t have asked for more today,” Froome said afterwards. Quite.

Thanks for joining our live coverage on Cyclingnews today. We'll have a full report, pictures and results from stage 8 here as well as all the news and reaction from Ax 3 Domaines. And, as ever, we'll be back with more live coverage tomorrow as stage 9 takes the Tour over five mountain passes on the road from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre.

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