Tour de France: Van Aert surges to stage 8 victory in Lausanne

Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) further enhanced his green jersey hopes, taking a spectacular sprint victory on stage 8 of the Tour de France over Michael Matthews (BikeExchange-Jayco).

Race leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), attentive and proactive on the uphill finish into Lausanne, was front and centre in the sprint, finishing third, taking the four-second time bonus and further extending his lead over Jonas Vingegaard - eighth on the stage - to 39 seconds.

The Ineos Grenadiers contenders Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates finished in the peloton to remain in third and fourth, respectively, as did the remainder of the top 10 riders overall.

"It was a pretty tough climb, 4.5k at 4%, with the flat part in between everything going uphill was really steep - I had to fight to stay on the wheel of Pogacar and his teammates," Van Aert said. "I knew if I could stay on the wheel the sprint was a bit flatter and I was waiting for that moment."

The category 3 climb to the finish proved too much for mountains classification leader Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), who rolled in six minutes down, but the breakaway mopped up most of the mountain points and he continues in the polka dot jersey with a one-point advantage over Pogačar.

It also proved too hard for Van Aert's green jersey rivals Fabio Jakobsen (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) and Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck). Now with a 115-point lead over Jakobsen, Van Aert's next nearest rival for the jersey is Pogačar, who has hardly put a foot wrong in the Tour de France so far.

"We're super happy with the green points for grab today. For me, it was a good opportunity. Today was a big chance to take a lot of points on a few of my competitors. I'm really glad my team put everything into to chase down the breakaway, then you have to finish it off."

Pogačar, 23, remains the race's best young rider with Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers) remaining second at 1:39.

From the breakaway group, Matteo Cattaneo (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl) claimed the day's combativity prize. Ineos Grenadiers, with four riders in the top 10, remaining best team.

Already the winner of stage 6 and 7, Pogačar said he wasn't expecting to go for the stage win today but was still disappointed to miss out.

"It was not that far away but it was a fun game. I maybe hesitated a little bit and Van Aert passed me with super speed. For sure it's a little disappointing but third place is still great," the yellow jersey holder said.

"I always like sprinting, when I was younger I was the smallest and almost always last. I'm really happy that now at least when it's going up 4 or 5k I can still do a solid sprint in the end. But still not as close as Matthews and Van Aert.

"Today was not the plan to win in the jersey, we said we'd sit back and tried to relax. BikeExchange and Jumbo-Visma had interest to pull and to win the stage from the bunch. We were thinking maybe today was breakaway day, but in the end it was an opportunity for us to take the win."

Earlier in the day, Pogačar had a brief scare coming down in a massive crash in the first 20km of the stage but it was without consequence.

"I was in the middle of the crash. I hit the ground but not so much, it was one of the softest crashes I've ever experienced. It was for me nothing bad, we came back quite fast and for me it was OK."

How it unfolded

The eighth day of the 2022 Tour de France was another sweltering stage with the peloton travelling from Dole in the Jura department of France into the race's fourth country, Switzerland. The finishing town, Lausanne, is famous for being the heart of the Olympic movement, with IOC headquarters having moved there from Paris during World War I. It is also the home of the European Cycling Union and the International Testing Agency which carries out anti-doping controls for cycling.

Another type of test was the main focus of the start of the 186.3-kilometre stage when news came that one of race leader Tadej Pogačar's teammates, Vegard Stake Laengen, tested positive for COVID-19 and did not start. Geoffrey Bouchard (AG2R Citroën) also came up positive for the coronavirus and went home.

Mountains classification leader Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) attempted to make the breakaway in the flurry of attacks that followed the flag drop at kilometre zero.

A crash just after the breakaway went clear caused a bit of havoc, with Pogačar amongst the fallers. Kevin Vermaerke (Team DSM), who sparked the crash after going down in a touch of wheels, was the most injured and abandoned the race. Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe) continued his bad luck by hitting the deck. When the dust settled three riders made up a satisfactory breakaway composition as Jumbo-Visma and UAE Team Emirates called off hostilities and formed a blockade at the front of the peloton to allow Pogačar to return.

Mattia Cattaneo (QuickStep-AlphaVinyl), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious) and Frederik Frison (Lotto Soudal) were the lucky trio allowed to dangle at most three minutes ahead of the peloton, as Jumbo-Visma eyed the stage win. Nathan Van Hooydonck almost single-handedly controlled the gap for green jersey holder Van Aert.

The trio took turns taking the prizes along the route, with Wright crossing the intermediate sprint after 46.9km first, Frison taking the first KOM on the Côte du Maréchet at kilometre 75.6, and Cattaneo leading over the Côte des Rousses (101.3km), but none were a threat to Cort's polka dot jersey.

Before the Côte de Pétra Félix, Frison let go of his two companions and, covered in salt and sweat, went back to the peloton two minutes behind and Cattaneo led Wright over the top. Not long after, Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) came to grief on the climb, going down mid-bunch. Then, to add insult to injury, as he went through the feed zone a soigneur holding out a musette managed to mistakenly punch him in the face. The Frenchman, after taking a brief moment to gather himself, chased back on with 34km to go.

Cattaneo and Wright fought on the long gradual descent toward Lausanne, enjoying the tailwind, but BikeExchange-Jayco threw Luke Durbridge into the chase for Michael Matthews bringing the gap down to 1:00 with 17.4km to go.

Jumbo-Visma relieved Van Hooydonck and pressed the accelerator, inspiring Trek-Segafredo for Stuyven, TotalEnergies for Sagan, Alpecin-Deceuninck for Van der Poel, Lotto Soudal for Ewen and AG2R Citroën to pitch in to close down the gap for the uphill sprint. The duo continued to push and held the chasers to 36 seconds with 10km remaining but they'd need more.

With 8.4km to go, Wright left Cattaneo behind, swinging the favour pendulum further toward the peloton. Pogačar himself came forward with Majka to help put the Bahrain Victorious rider out of his misery as the road tilted uphill. They caught Wright with 3.5km to go. The climb reduced the peloton but all of the favourites were present, with the green jersey of Van Aert closely tracking the race leader.

Majka led Pogačar, Vingegaard and Van Aert to the final 300m when Jungles finally came to the fore. Matthews launched first but Van Aert proved too strong.

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