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As it happened: A challenging day ends in draggy bunch sprint on stage 8

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Hello and welcome to Cyclingnews live coverage of stage 8 of the 2024 Tour de France!

It's all drama already at the Tour, as second-place green jersey contener Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) has been forced to leave the race because of injuries sustained from his stage 5 crash.

The team revealed that the Dane had been suffering through stage 6 and 7, but "it was in Mads' best interest to stop racing in order to undergo more detailed examinations to assess his injuries further and give him the proper rest and recovery needed to focus on his remaining goals this summer and the final part of the season.”

Read our full story here.

Meanwhile, the drama surrounding Jasper Philipsen's relegation on stage 6 continues as the Belgian rider spoke defensively about his sprint tactics in his column Het Belang van Limburg.

“After what happened on Thursday, I do feel targeted. Much worse things have happened in the past," he said.

We're around one hour away from the stage start in Semur-en-Auxois, with Cyclingnews' on-the-ground team reporting a rainy welcome to the start village.

And indeed, the Tour's live broadcast of race sign-on paints a rainy image of the riders.

One of the most heart-warming sights of the Tour so far came during the time trial yesterday when Julian Bernard stopped briefly to greet his family and friends. Exasperatingly, the jobsworths at the UCI fined him for it, but thankfully Bernard himself wasn’t too bothered, describing it as a “dream moment.”

As for today's stage, it's far from a straightforward sprinter's day. Unlike the days that have ended in bunch sprints so far, there is much more climbing, with the road undulating throughout, amounting to over 2,000m elevation gain. And echelons are a possibility to, if the wind blows in the right direction.

We're about five minutes away from the neutralised start. 

A lot of grim faces as they wait at the neutralised start. They will not be looking forward to riding in this weather. 

They've set off from the start line, and await the official start.

They might be cold now, in the 16 degrees temperatures, but won't be for long. With a decent chance of the breakaway succeeding today, we can expect a big fight from the flag to get in it - and so some pretty intense racing to warm up with.

Still 5km to go until the official. It’s a long neutralised zone today. The riders must be itching to get on with it and warm up.

Tadej Pogacar

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Some riders are dropping back to remove some of the rain gear they'd had on at the start. They're anticipating warming up very quickly once the racing gets going.

Just 1km until the start! This will be much more exciting than previous days, when nobody tried to get into the break - we promise. 

183KM TO GO

EF Education-EasyPost kick things off immediately, with Nelson Powless attacking with Uno-X’s Jonas Abrahamsen .

Powless' teammate Stefan Bissegger is also with them, and have formed a three-man group a few seconds ahead of the peloton. 

Quentin Pacher of Groupama-FDJ is in pursuit of the trio, having jumped out of the peloton.

For now, Packer is closer to the peloton than the three riders ahead of him, who already have a lead of 30 seconds.

There are no signs of any attacks coming out of the peloton. Could this be it already?

Still no action in the peloton, where the pace has been knocked off. It seems the appetite to get into the breakaway is much lower than expected.

The pace is slow enough for Pogačar to stop for a comfort break at the side of the road.

It's two minutes already for the leading trio. It's hard to see anyone bridging up to that.

That includes Pacher, who is only ten seconds ahead of the peloton.

Pacher has been brought back.

170KM TO GO

Tadej Pogacar

The peloton at the start in Semur-en-Auxois (Image credit: Getty Images)

The race might be in a settled situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for the riders. There are lots of grim faces as they ride their way through the rain. I for one am happy to be watching this with a roof over my head.

With only three men up the road, this isn’t developing into the breakaway day we had been expecting. We’ve just heard Powless tell Abrahamsen that he “would like to have more guys here.” It shouldn’t be hard for the peloton to control and bring back such a small group, even in this weather on such undulating terrain. 

The riders are on the first of the day’s climbs, the category three Côte de Vitteaux. It’s one of three in quick succession during this early phase of the race.

160KM TO GO

Now, this is an interesting move from EF Education-EasyPost. Despite having two men up the road, they've attacked with two more - Ben Healy and another.

Alberto Bettiol is the teammate with Healy, and the 2 EFs are also joined by Stevie Williams.

More attacks coming behind them now. The race is on again!

In the space of just a kilometre, the trio's lead has been slashed by 30 seconds - by their own teammates!

The break has reached the top, and Abrahamsen takes maimum points, uncontested.

Max Van Gils and Mathieu Burgaudeau have joined the three chasers.

And now Bissegger is done.

The pace is fast enough again to force some riders out the back of he peloton - including Cavendish. 

The chase group with Healy, Van Gils and Burgaudeau have been brought back by the peloton.

The attacks aren't done, however. Romain Grégoire is the latest to make a move.

It might have seemed strange of EF Education-EasyPost to reignite the race despite having two men up the road, especially as by doing so they cut their advantage. But there is method in the madness - they must believe that, as it stands, the 3-man lead group has no chance of making it to the finish, and the only way they will is if a few riders (whether from their team, or another) bridge up to them.

They're on the second climb already - Côte de Villy-en-Auxois, which is a category four.

Grégoire is still a minute behind the leaders, and 20 seconds ahead of the peloton.

More unorthodox tactics from EF. Their two leaders have dropped off the pace, meaning Abrahamsen is out alone.

Fabio Jakobsen is dropped out of the peloton on the climb.

Lots more attacks from the peloton on the climb, including Kwiatkowski and Lapeira.

There are about 20 riders trying to go clear of the peloton, led by French champion Paul Lapeira.

150KM TO GO

Now Powless and Bissegger go over the top, only a few seconds ahead of the chasers.

Those chasers have become the peloton again, as they merge together over the top. 

Grégoire has been caught too. We now have Abrahamsen up the road alone, with Bissegger and Powless behind, closely followed by the peloton.

It's now time for the third climb, Côte de Verrey-sous-Salmaise. We can expect the action to kick off again here.

The EF duo are setting a fast pace up this climb. They'll want to stay clear of the peloton, and hope a few riders can bridge up to them and form a bigger breakaway group with them. 

The first rider to attack fro the peloton on this climb is Jordan Jegat, of TotalEnergies.

Mechanical for Fernando Gaviria.

The race has actually calmed down on this climb. Jegat is the only man to have attacked, and the pace in the peloton is down again, as they spread across the road.

Jegat has not only caught the two EF riders, but has passed them! Another strange  development with EF's tactics. 

More polka-dot points for Abrahamsen, who crests the climb alone.

Now Jegat reaches the top, 1-20 later.

Bissegger and Powless have sat up, and have been brought back by the peloton. Do EF have anything else up their sleeve, or is that it now, as the terrain eases for a little while?

140KM TO GO

Things have all clamed down again. Cavendish and other riders who had been dropped have returned, and some riders are pausing for comfort breaks. 

Jegat is in a tricky situation here - a long way from Abrahamsen, and with nobody to help him bridge the gap. In fact, it seems he's sat up and is waiting for the peloton to catch him.

Jegat has been brought back by the peloton, which is now almost five minutes behind Abrahamsen. 

Peloton

(Image credit: Getty Images)

130KM TO GO

The race is about to liven up again, as the peloton approaches the intermatie sprint. Abrahamsen has just gone through it, and the sprinters will be here to contest the rest of the points in about five minutes.

The abandon of Pedersen this morning and relegation of Philipsen two days ago means Girmay suddenly has a huge lead in the green jersey classification, of 62 points over the next best rider - who, incidentally, is the day's breakaway rider, Jonas Abrahamsen. 

Intermarché - Wanty are leading the sprint out for Girmay.

Girmay wins the sprint for second.

That was textbook from Intermarché - Wanty. Not only did they have three men to lead Girmay out, they even used Gerben Thijssen to outsprint Philipsen for third place.

120KM TO GO

Crash for Søren Kragh Andersen in the peloton. Philipsen was also held up, though unclear if he too was involved. Either way, both riders appear OK.

Here are the intermediate sprint results in full:

That means Girmay extends his lead over Philipsen in the points classification to 68 points, while Abrahamsen reduces his deficit to the Eritrean to 59 points.

Here is the updated green jersey rankings in full

110KM TO GO

Jonas Abrahamsen

(Image credit: Getty Images)

100KM TO GO

Peloton

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While the race is going through a lull, why not have a read of our piece looking back at the old US Postal team of 1999, and where all it's members are now? 

90KM TO GO

Abrahamsen is on the Côte de Santenoge now. He'll extend his lead in the King of the Mountain yet further. 

With such a big gap now between the him and the peloton, it's unlikely we'll see the same action we did on the previous climbs - though given the unorthodox tactics of EF Education-EasyPost today, you can't completely discount any attacks.

Abrahamsen reaches the top, and he still looks strong.

Bike change for Hugo Page in the peloton. No need to panic with the race so relaxed.

The peloton have only ust started the climb, minutes after Abrahamsen crested it. It's only 1.1km long, but it averages 8%.

Sam Bennett's just stopped, to adjust his own seat post. This will be a tricky finish for him, but such attention to detail suggests he fancies his chances. 

The peloton reach the top of the climb, and the pace has gone up a bit. The gap has come down to within six minutes again. 

80KM TO GO

Tadej Pogacar

Tadej Pogačar refueling (Image credit: Getty Images)

Some developments in the peloton, which is stringing out. It seems they're being wary of crosswinds, but right now neither its strength nor direction appears to be conducive to splitting the race.

A narrowing of the road has caused some problems in the peloton, but, thankfully, nobody hit the deck. 

Geraint Thomas is off the back of the peloton, having had a flat tire. It might take longer to rejoin than it would have done earlier, what with the increase in pace, but only an inconvenience rather than a worry.

70KM TO GO

Crash for Warren Barguil in the peloton. He’s OK, but having to wait for a bike change.

There’s been a split in the peloton amid that crash, with lots of riders caught out behind. There’s no panic, but they are having to chase hard to re-join.

Abrahamsen has just started the final climb of the day, Côte de Giey-sur-Aujon.

It’s only 1.2km, but pretty steep, at 7.8%. 

Abrahamsen reaches the top of the climb, competing a clean sweep of polka-dot jersey points for the day. He's very unliely to add a stage win to that, but it's been another great day for the Norwegian regardless. 

60KM TO GO

The peloton reach the top of the climb, having reformed earlier. There are no more splits, but Alberto Bettiol is off the back having had a mechanical.

There might not be any more official climbs from now to the finish, but the road will continue to undulate, and is far from flat. Don't discount the possibility of some late attacks - perhaps the teams without sprinters who nevertheless didn't try and get into the break at the start of the day, will instead make their moves towards the end of the stage?

50KM TO GO

So, if and when this does come back together for a sprint, who will be the favourites for the win?

The false flat to the finish also makes this a great opportunity for Biniam Girmay. He’s already been sprinting faster than at arguably any time in his career, and packs a relatively faster punch on a draggy finish like this. Even if he doesn’t earn another win in addition to his stage three triumph, this is a chance for him to extend his lead yet more in the points classification.

Although he has the speed of a pure sprinter, Jasper Philipsen is still capable of excelling on a finish like this. He finished second behind Mads Pedersen in a similar stage of last year’sTour and, with the Dane having gone home, could go one better this time - especially as he’ll be fuelled by anger at how frustratingly his Tour has gone so far.

40KM TO GO

The uphill nature of the finish will make this hard for the purists to get involved, such as stage winners Mark Cavendish and Dylan Groenewegen. Instead, other names who have not shown their faces in the previous bunch finishes could get involved - such as Groenewegen’s Jayco-AlUla teammate Michael Matthews, who has always loved finishes like this.

And what about Wout van Aert? On one hand, he looked well short of his best in yesterday’s time trial, but he has managed to get involved in some of the bunch sprints, taking sixth place in Dijon. At his best, he’d be the favourite on a finish like this, but does he have the form today? 

Sandy Dujardin is looking worse for wear in the peloton. He appears to have a bug of some kind, having been back to the medical car earlier, and is now receiving support from his TotalEnergies teammate Mattéo Vercher, who has his arm over his shoulder.

Things are definitely getting more tense in the peloton now. There’s a big battle for positioning ahead of a corner. These roads are wet, too. Nerves will be high.

The rain is coming down heavier, too. Just what the riders didn’t want. 

30KM TO GO

Interestingly, EF Education-EasyPost are back at the front. Do they have a new plan to go for the stage win?

Some riders getting dumped out the back of the peloton, including Pogačar's teammate Marc Soler.

A surprise, as Michael Matthews is dropped. Clearly he won't be in the mix for the stage win.

Peloton

(Image credit: Getty Images)

UAE Team Emirates have taken control of the peloton, having disappeared from the front for a while.

Lots of teams jostling for position at the front of the peloton. There's a lot of tension, but thankfully no crashes. 

20KM TO GO

Michael Matthews might have been dropped, but his Jayco-AlUla teammate Dylan Groenewegen is still there. We also haven't seen Mark Cavendish be dropped, so he might still be contention for now too.

EF Education-EasyPost are back on the front again. An uncategorised climb is approaching, and it's a far from easy one. Could we see attacks?

They're on the climb now.

No attacks yet, and the bunch has compressed together, with the pace having slowed.

Abrahamsen's long day is at an end, as the peloton at last make that catch. Chapeau to the Norwegian - he has been the great entertainer of this Tour so far. 

10KM TO GO

Wout van Aert currently has his nose to the wind at the front of the peloton, protecting Visma-Lease a Bike leader Jonas Vingegaard. It may be that he's on domestique duty today, and therefore not sprinting. 

Mark Cavendish is still present in the bunch, and right up towards the front surrounded by Astana teammates. Does he fancy his chances, despite the uphill finish?

EF Education-EasyPost lead the peloton, with Quinn and Healy. They're presumably working for their sprinter Van den Berg.

Fabio Jakobsen has sat up, so won't be contesting the sprint. 

Decathlon-AG2R take over at the front. Sam Bennett must be feeling up for it today. 

5KM TO GO

Pogacar has Tim Wellens looking after him, as they go under the 3km to go banner.

Almost a crash in the peloton, as a ripple affect goes through the peloton, but thankfully no fallers. Some have been taken out of position though.

2km to go, and still the peloton is bunched up, with no team stinrging it out.

Some trains forming now though - Decathlon lead the peloton.

1KM TO GO

Intermarché - Wanty take over...

They're on the uphill drag to the line.

Cofidis lead for Coquard

Coquard second in line, Girmay 3rd.

Coquard sprints...

Philipsen comes charging past him...

...but it's Girmay who takes the win!

Coquard started his sprint early, and first Philipsen passed him, then Girmay passed him.

Philipsen led for most of the final metres, but Girmay came around him just in time.

In between, Arnaud De Lie couldn't find a gap to come through them, and finished third. 

By winning, Girmay becomes the first repeat winner of this Tour de France. If he wasn't already a superstar of cycling, he is now.

Intermarche - Wanty team's Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay wearing the sprinter's green jersey (C) cycles past the finish line to win the 8th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 183,5 km between Semur-en-Auxois and Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, on July 6, 2024. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

As for Philipsen, his torments at this year's race continues. That's the second time he's crossed the line at this Tour in second-place. He had to come from much further back than Girmay in this sprint, which ultimately cost him.

The top ten in fill:

Despite leading the sprint initially, Coquard ended up finishing down in 37th. He started his sprint much too early. 

As for the GC, it's as you were:

The finish was much more relevant to the green jersey than the yellow jersey. Here's the updated rankings in that classification:

Biniam Girmay

(Image credit: Getty Images)

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