Live coverage of stage 8 of the 2016 Tour de France, a 184km Pyrenean excursion from Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon.
Hello there and welcome to Cyclingnews' live coverage of the 2016 Tour de France. It's stage 8 today and the race continues in the Pyrenees with a brutal set of mountains on the menu. This is comfortably the hardest stage of the Tour so far - one of the hardest of the whole race - and we should see the GC battle really come to life. We'll be with it every step of the way.
Here's the profile
It has been a grey morning in Pau, where riders have signed on and are now preparing for the roll-out.
Here's race leader Greg van Avermaet. More breakaway antics today?!
The riders are currently making their way through a lengthy neutral zone. The race proper is expected to get underway in 10 minutes or so.
Ok so it's all happening in the neutral zone for once. Geraint Thomas and Jan Bakelants have both crashed, Winner Anacona has punctured, and Tom Dumoulin is back at his team car.
Before we get underway, here's a reminder of how the GC stands after 7 stages
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 34:09:44
2 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:05:50
3 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:05:51
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:53
5 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:05:54
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:05:57
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
8 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin
9 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
10 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step
Yellow: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
Green: Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data)
Polka-dot: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal)
White: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
And we're off! The riders reach KM0 at the end of the neutral zone and the race is underway. Pic from Astana
With so many big climbs and KOM points on the menu, there should be no shortage of attackers today. The polka dots are up for grabs.
We've had a flurry of attacks in the opening kilometres, including Thomas De Gendt, who clearly has his eyes on extending his spell as king of the mountains. Nothing has stuck just yet, though, and the peloton remains vigilant.
Some big transfer news this morning as we have learnt that Alberto Contador will sign for Trek-Segafredo on Monday. Here's the full story:
The speed is high out there as we wait to settle on a situation everyone's happy with. Not even Matthieu Ladagnous is allowed any time off the front to pass through his home town of Nay in front of fans, family and friends.
Given the profile of this stage, there would have been plenty of riders hoping for a calm start to proceedings before the suffering commences after 65 or so kilometres. They're not getting their way, however.
158km remaining from 184km
All together after 25km
Today's stage is a variation on a Pyrenean classic. Pau and Bagnères-de-Luchon are Tour de France staples, and the Col du Tourmalet is once of the race's most iconic climbs.
This year we don't have the so-called 'circle of death' involving the Peyresourde, Aspin, Tourmalet and Aubisque. Instead we're going west to east, skipping the Aubisque and the Aspin but we still have four difficult climbs and it should be another day to remember.
The Dimension Data duo of Bernard Eisel and Serge Pauwels are the latest to attack. Pauwels was in the break on the Massif Central stage a few days ago and was involved in a mountain breakaway at last year's Tour.
147km remaining from 184km
The peloton reaches Lourdes and boy have those opening 36 kilometres been covered quickly.
Peter Sagan is the latest rider to have a go...
133km remaining from 184km
50km covered now and it's still all together, though Michael Morkov, who has been struggling ever since he crashed on the opening stage, is losing contact at the back of the bunch.
It's an absolutely blistering start to the day as 51km are covered in the first hour of racing by a peloton that is still all together.
The attacks continue with the French teams trying to make something stick. The road is already rising and we're not too far away from the intermediate sprint at Esquièze-Sère at km67.
Cofidis' Dani Navarro, who was in the break yesterday, is at it again, and is away at the head of the race. He got a gap with Tom Dumoulin and Mickael Chérel, but has a gap on his own now.
The counter attacks come thick and fast and we have a large group emerging now ahead of the peloton.
Incredible scenes on yesterday's stage as the flamme rouge inflatable collapsed just as Adam Yates was going under it. The moment was captured by one of Velon's GoPro cameras and you can see the must-watch footage here:
A group of around 13 have half a minute on the peloton as we start the Tourmalet
The break: Wout Poels (Sky), Jesus Herrada (Movistar), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Mikaël Chérel (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Stef Clement (IAM), Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Tom Dumoulin (Giant), Paul Voss (Bora), Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha), Romain Sicard (Direct Energie), Dani Navarro (Cofidis) and Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange).
The climb of the Col du Tourmalet has begun. This is how it looks.
@TourTracker Sat, 9th Jul 2016 11:37:46
Julian Alaphilippe attacks! The Frenchman lost the white jersey yesterday to Adam Yatest but is still well up there on GC.
That breakaway group is breaking up now.
The race situation has exploded and is ever-changing as we make our way up this beast of a climb. Thibaut Pinot, whose GC ambitions were left in tatters yesterday, has attacked. Meanwhile Team Sky set the pace in the peloton, which is rapidly thinning out already.
Greg van Avermaet, the yellow jersey, is dropped.
Rafal Majka has joined Pinot at the head of the race. The Pole tried his luck in the break on the Massif Central stage and is already well down on GC. At the moment it's those two who lead the race.
Michael Matthews won the intermediate sprint but that somehow feels like an irrelevance here.
"I'm in the unknown"
Thibaut Pinot lost a chunk of time yesterday as he endured a jour sans. Once again, he must re-align his ambitions for the Tour de France, and this is what he had to say this morning, talking to the Tour organisers.
"We've had a meeting. I've told what went wrong and what my expectations are for the rest of the Tour. There are many question marks but very few answers. It's a problem to not really understand what happens. But there are two weeks left. I still have some time to achieve something. Seb [Reichenbach] is well placed. We'll see how I go this weekend. It's a very hard stage today. It depends on the first part of the race, whether a breakaway is formed early or it's a fight between the favourites. We have no plan. I'm in the unknown.”
Vincenzo Nibali has been dropped from the group of GC favourites.
Pinot and Majka lead the peloton by 30 seconds.
Pinot's old domestique Arnold Jeannesson is in between with Tony Martin.
Nibali is 25 seconds behind the GC group
Van Avermaet is 2 minutes in arrears
The leaders are half-way up the 19km Tourmalet, which gets steeper nearer the top.
@BMCProTeam Sat, 9th Jul 2016 12:05:18
Pinot and Majka have opened up a lead of 1:25 over the main bunch.
Team Sky lead the bunch with pretty much every member of their team up there apart from Stannard and Rowe. The machine that is Vasil Kiryienka currently leads the way.
Another machine, Tony Martin, is making is way up to Pinot and Majka. That's right, a rouleur catching two climbers on a HC ascent.
Kiryienka pulls off now and soon drops off the back of the main group altogether.
103km remaining from 184km
5km to the summit for the three leaders
Alaphilippe is starting to lose contact
Alaphilippe is with Nibali now. They have the GC group in their sights so it's no disaster just yet
Alaphilippe leaves Nibali but now finds himself 1:40 down on the peloton, where Mikel Landa leads the riders up one of these hairpins cut into the mountainside.
Alaphilippe can't help but look to his right as he ploughs on. This is his first Tour de France and he's soaking in the breathtaking views here.
Pinot and Majka near the top of the Tourmalet and thoughts turn to the KOM points on offer at the first HC climb of the Tour.
And it's Pinot who takes it, comfortably getting the better of Majka. Are we seeing another Pinot resurgence here? Tony Martin wasn't bothered but he should regain contact on the descent.
@inrng Sat, 9th Jul 2016 12:38:28
A reminder of the stage profile. Serious descent coming up
Team Sky currently dictating, and we spoke to Chris Froome this morning.
"It’s a big day ahead," he said. "This is the guts of the race. Today and tomorrow we should see some action from the GC guys. Potentially it could be on the last climb today. Someone is going to try before them. Depending on teams, who is there, and the break, there’s a lot of factors.
"It’s still not a mountaintop finish today and we have another big day tomorrow. Our plans depend on what’s happening in the race."
We also spoke to Alberto Contador, who has showed signs he's recovering from those crashes on the opening stages. The Spaniard has made it over the Tourmalet with no issues.
84km remaining from 184km
Martin makes it back to Majka and Pinot on the descent. Pinot descending well despite the confidence issues that have plagued him in the past. The trio is 2:20 ahead of the peloton.
Alaphilippe is with Nibali again and the duo are absolutely tearing downhill, giving it everything. They're nearly three minutes down on the peloton, however.
Apologies, I teed up a Contador quote just before without ever delivering it. Here's what the Tinkoff rider had to say:
"I slept for nine hours and I feel good. We have a very hard day in front of us with a lot of climbing but we go day by day and save what energy we have."
Movistar take over from Sky. Pinot is only just over three minutes in arrears on GC, so he can't be allowed total freedom here.
The road is just rising uphill once again and we'll soon be onto the second climb of the day. It's the Hourquette d'Ancizan, a second-category ascent, 8.2km at an average of 4.9%. It's tougher than it sounds, with some seriously steep ramps mitigated - in terms of the average gradient - by a short dip down 3/4 of the way up.
A word from Adam Yates, who moved up to second overall and into the white jersey yesterday, but whose success was tainted by the fact he crashed into the collapsed flamme rouge inflatable. Christian Prudhomme paid the young Brit a visit on the Orica team bus this morning to apologies.
“I’ve got stitches in my chin and my legs are sore but I got pretty lucky. It’s not nice to take the white jersey like that but now I want to hold it as long as possible. We’ll see what happens," he said.
Sky take back over from Movistar on the climb. They're two minutes behind the leading trio, and they're just making steady progress at the minute - nothing ridiculous.
Morkov has only recently crested the Tourmalet and is currently around 25 minutes in arrears. The Katusha man faces a real battle to make the time limit today and could be the first drop-out of this Tour.
Majka takes a bidon, pours it over his face, and chucks it away. It's another hot day out there.
The gap comes down to 1:30 as Sky continue to set the pace. It's Mikel Landa on the front, who has been there for quite some time now. There are around 45 riders in this group.
Mark Cavendish is also in a spot of bother as he has been dropped from the gruppetto.
The leading trio are on the upper slopes of the Hourquette. Majka and Pinot leading the way, Martin just staying in contact behind them really.
Pinot leads the trio over the top of the climb to extend his virtual lead in the KOM standings. That's the new focus of his race, perhaps.
1:30 is the gap still as the peloton strings out on this long and gently bending descent.
Pinot finds himself behind Majka and Martin on this second descent. No problems, though, for the Frenchman, who can take tips on the lines and take this at his leisure.
Last year, Nairo Quintana had lost almost two minutes in the overall classification as the race went into its second weekend. This time around, he has avoided any incident and heads into the first big mountain stages equal on time with the other big favourites. Quintana lost out in the Pyrenees last year but he says that he and his team are ready for anything this time out.
“It’s a stage that we can do something to our rivals. I think that there will be a lot happening in the general classification today,” said Quintana. “We are waiting for a possibility to attack. We are ready for this attack and we hope that when it happens we can make it work.”
52km remaining from 184km
The peloton comes through Guchen for a tiny bit of flat before we begin the next climb. Just over 50km remaining.
The yellow jersey group is over 7 minutes behind the peloton now so it looks like Greg van Avermaet's spell in the maillot jaune is coming to an end. Adam Yates is the virtual leader on the road.
We're climbing again, and this time it's a category 1 ascent. It's the Col de Val Louron-Azet and it's 10.7km at 6.8%,
The leading trio's advantage comes down to 40 seconds as Movistar and Sky continue to push on.
Mechanical for Woet Poels. Purely physical problems for other riders that are falling away here, inclding Mathias Frank.
Majka goes clear at the head of the race. Martin continues to grind his way up but Pinot is dropped.
An indication that the pace has really increased in the peloton: Pinot is caught. And now Martin. And Majka is within eyesight.
42km remaining from 184km
Majka is caught as Pinot is dropped by the peloton. The Frenchman is set to lose more time here and any suggestion he might revive his Tour here have been swiftly brushed aside.
Geraint Thomas takes it up as Movistar's Nelson Oliveira pulls off. Sky still with an enviable strength in depth.
@friebos Sat, 9th Jul 2016 14:06:18
It's becoming increasingly apparent that Movistar and Sky are the strongest teams in the race. They're the ones dictating and it bodes well for Quintana and Froome, while the other GC favourites just have to sit tight in this group. Aru has a couple of Astana teammates with him, staying quiet behind Sky.
40km remaining from 184km
Will we see fireworks on this climb? We have this and then another first-category ascent to come, but the first true summit finish of the race will have to wait until tomorrow - and that may well be on the minds of many.
Michael Morkov abandons the race
The Katusha man has battled bravely today but, over half an hour behind the race, he has climbed off his back. That's the first abandon of the 2016 Tour de France - a record for the amount of the race covered without a drop-out.
Quintana sits on the wheel of Chris Froome, who's looking hot and starting to pant now.
38km remaining from 184km
Just over 30 riders left in this leading group. Yates is last man but still in contact.
Mikel Nieve leads the way with Thomas seconds wheel, then Henao, Poels, Froome, buried in is stem. Then it's Quintana who has Valverde with him.
Most of the big GC players are in here, apart from Pinot, Nibali, and Alaphilippe.
The riders make traverse their way along this green hillside, with some stunning mountain peaks about to come into view. 1km to the top of this climb.
Majka tries to come through to take the KOM points at the top of the climb, but Froome and Poels block the way and accelerate to prevent the Pole. Majka's not too happy with that.
@inrng Sat, 9th Jul 2016 14:27:51
So the Sky train grinds away for the majority of the stage and they bully a rider out of KOM points for no great reward. They're not going to be earning any fans either at home or within the peloton. Not that they'll care - this is a bike race not a popularity contest.
Wilco Kelderman crashes on a hairpin and he needs a bike change.
Kelderman's tubular front tyre was ripped clean off as he took that corner. He gets a new bike and has George Bennett with him.
Here we go then. Time for the Col de Peyresourde - 7.1km at 7.8%
23km remaining from 184km
Kelderman is back on and the road heads uphill now for this final climb of the day. More Team Sky control? Or will someone go on the offensive?
Ten Dam is dropped from this lead group, his team leader Warren Barguil still safely in there.
Is anyone going to light this one up? Who's going to win the stage? Strong, boring, or both from Sky? Let me know your thoughts via Twitter - @paddyfletch
Poels is dropped now as Sky are reduced to four. BMC's Damiano Caruso also loses contact but Porte and Van Garderen are both still in there with a teammate.
Ion Izagirre is dropped and Quintana now has just Valverde for company.
@Laura_Weislo Sat, 9th Jul 2016 14:52:07
More riders lose contact as Sky tighten the screw. The promising Emanuel Buchmann is dropped, as is Sebastien Reichenbach - FDJ's de facto leader.
Barguil and Frank Schleck struggling at the back.
Henao injects some pace. A sharp acceleration from the Sky man and Valverde gives chase
Valverde brings Quintana across but there's a gap here with Aru scrambling to get back on terms. This is going to drop Barguil.
Things calm down again as the favourites come back together, with Dan Martin prominent. Barguil is dropped with Schleck and Zakarin.
Valverde drives on but now Froome his the front. And Froome goes!
Quintana gives chase, then Dan Martin. We're nearly at the top of this climb.
Porte and Van Garderen are doing well here. And now Dan Martin attacks!
Kelderman and Rolland the next to be dropped as we're seeing a real selection for the first time in this race.
Contador loses contact
Tinkoff leadership? Roman Kreuziger is up there and he's cracking on, certainly not waiting for Contador.
16km remaining from 184km
1km to the top and now Bardet attacks
Bardet has won stages before by attacking over a climb and going for it on the descent, but Quintana comes roaring back and hits the front.
Henao hits the front once more with Froome second wheel, followed by Quintana. Yates is still in there at the back with Aru.
The lead group is down to around 13 as we come to the top of the climb.
Contador 25 seconds in arrears.
Froome leads over the top and attacks onto the descent.
Froome has a gap here and he's pushing on as the road heads downhill. Valverde takes it up to lead the chase.
13km remaining from 184km
Froome hasn't stopped pedalling here, even as he drops onto his top tube to get into a tight aero tuck over his bars. He's really going for this! Is the potential reward great enough for this?
Froome has 10 seconds.
Contador is 1 minute back, Barguil a further 15 seconds.
The main GC group chasing Froome looks like this:
Valverde, Quintana, Aru, Porte, Van Garderen, Bardet, Kreuziger, Dan Martin, Yates, Mollema, Meintjes, Zakarin.
Froome's chest is still buried into his bars and he has really taken this on. We've seen Froome strike out on many a summit finish, but a descent? We wouldn't expect this level of risk-taking and neither would his rivals, perhaps, as he's riding away here!
6km remaining from 184km
There are 10 bonus seconds on the line, remember. Froome who's increasing his lead - amazingly - is riding into yellow.
Froome is using every inch of road here as he throws himself through some of these bends. It's hair-rising, and there will be hearts in the mouths of Sky staff, but you have to give it to him - this is an impressive display.
4km remaining from 184km
Rolland crashes on a corner but Froome is still upright and has over 20 seconds here. Wow.
Porte hits the front with Van Garderen but no one's taking the risks Froome is.
2km remaining from 184km
Froome comes off the descent and the road flattens out. 2km to go.
Aru attacks from the group now on the flat. They're 18 seconds behind Froome.
Flamme rouge for Froome and he has a flat 1km time trial now. He's heading for the stage win and yellow.
Froome comes through the last couple of corners, gets out of the saddle, and gives it everything he has left on the final straight.
Dan Martin takes second with the GC group 14 seconds back.
Here comes Contador. He's lost around 1:40 to Froome. 1:50 when the time bonus is factored in. Having started the day 1:21 back, it's another blow to his hopes.
Joaquim Rodríguez took third in that sprint to the line from the GC group.
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 4:57:33
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:13
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:13
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:13
5 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:13
6 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
7 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
8 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre - Merida 0:00:13
9 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:47
"It wasn't planned," says Froome.
"it was just bit of fun really. I thought I’d give it a try, I had a go on the climb and nothing was sticking and I thought I’d give it a go and see what I could do on the descent – see if I could catch someone out. It was real old-school bike racing, just fun. Maybe I spent a bit too much, let’s see, tomorrow is hard day and 20 seconds isn’t a huge margin but I’ll take every second I can get at this stage."
The results have been revised and here is the correct top 15 on the stage
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 4:57:33
2 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:13
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:13
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:13
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team 0:00:13
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:13
7 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:00:13
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:13
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:13
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
11 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:13
12 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:13
13 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre - Merida 0:00:13
14 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:13
What do we make of that?
Hats off to Froome, that was some ride. Who could have expected him to strike out like that on a descent? And hold it? He wasn't shut down immediately and that was the problem. The defending champion's rivals will be kicking themselves - that was a cheap chunk of time to concede.
General classification after stage 8
1 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 39:13:04
2 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange 0:00:16
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:00:16
4 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:00:17
5 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:19
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:23
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:00:23
8 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:23
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:23
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:00:23
11 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky 0:00:23
12 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team 0:00:34
13 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre - Merida 0:00:34
14 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:01:51
15 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac 0:01:55
Now we hear from Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford
"When people think you’re predictable or conservative, then you’ve always got the element of surprise and we thought we’d use that this year and we have the riders to do it. I think it’ll keep people guessing. We do a lot more than people think in terms of imaginative tactics."
Greg Van Avermaet is in but the yellow has well and truly slipped off his shoulders, and onto those of Froome. Mark Cavendish has still not finished and is racing against the time cut here.
"We expected that, we knew it would be a tricky stage. We had a pretty intense pace toward the end of the stage, but it wasn't fast enough, unfortunately," says Alejandro Valverde.
"There are lots of mountains to come, the team is feeling good. Nairo can be very strong but we have to wait and see. I was with Nairo towards the end, and tried to stay with him the best I could. But Froome was just so fast, and he risked everything in the turns. That's the reality. Froome raced well."
Cavendish is still not home. This is real concern now.
Cavendish comes across the line and it turns out he has regained contact with the big gruppetto with the other sprints. It's going to be tight in terms of the time cut but with such a big group there it's difficult to see anyone being cut.
And now we hear from Adam Yates, who has just been to collect his white jersey as best young rider.
"I’m ok. I had pretty bad luck yesterday, a few stitches, cuts and bruises but I got lucky. Today was tough but I got through ok. I didn’t really know what was going on, I was just hanging on for grim death. It was a tough day from the start so I’m happy to just get through. We’ll see how it goes but hopefully I can keep the white jersey. It’s hard to stay if I’ll hold onto it for the duration, I came here for stages not GC, but we’ll see what happens next couple of weeks."
Froome back in yellow
Froome explains that he put a 54 chainring on especially for today. Planned all along then? Not that specific attack, he says, but just to give him scope on the many descents of the day. But still, a wide move, and here's the ring wot won it.
This isn't British boasting, I promise, but 5 of the 8 stages so far have been won by Brits...
@tom_dumoulin Sat, 9th Jul 2016 16:11:07
Brief report with results and photos can be found at the link below. Full report and video highlights on the way shortly.
Geraint Thomas wasn't surprised by Froome's daring downhill attack
"He takes bigger risks than I do in training," says the Welshman. "I’m not surprised. He’s a bit of a nutcase when it comes to that."
We've rounded up all the instant reactions - including Froome, Valverde, Brailsford, Yates, Van Garderen, and others - into one handy place:
A stunning journey through the Pyrenees
Rafal Majka is the new leader of the King of the Mountains classification
This is the link to a video of what Froome is referring to. He lands quite a punch there on a roadside fan
Here's our full stage 8 report
No rest for the wicked. This is what we have in store tomorrow...
Tomorrow is certainly not one to be missed. Don't worry about the Wimbledon final. We'll have full live coverage from tomorrow morning (of the Tour, not Wimbledon) so do join us for that.
Thanks for your company today - that's a wrap. Keep an eye on Cyclingnews.com for video highlights - coming soon - and all the news and reaction from Luchon. Bye!
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