Stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse sees the peloton tackle six laps of a 21.5km circuit in Bellinzona. With no categorised climbs on the menu, this promises to be an opportunity for the fast men but, Switzerland being Switzerland, there are still over 1,000 metres of climbing crammed into the 123km of racing.
The roll-out is due at 2.15pm local time. Richie Porte (BMC) carries the yellow jersey into the stage and will expect to maintain his lead ahead of tomorrow's concluding time trial. The GC picture is as follows ahead of stage 8:
1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 26:06:10
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:00:17
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:00:52
4 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:53
5 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 0:01:13
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:01:28
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 0:01:31
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 0:01:37
9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin 0:01:48
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 0:02:26
11 Arthur Vichot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ 0:02:32
12 Diego Ulissi (Ita) UAE Team Emirates 0:02:42
13 Jack Haig (Aus) Mitchelton-Scott 0:02:56
14 Tanel Kangert (Est) Astana Pro Team 0:03:02
15 Ion Izagirre (Spa) Bahrain-Merida 0:03:03
16 Mathias Frank (Swi) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:09
17 Bjorg Lambrecht (Bel) Lotto Soudal 0:03:15
18 Hugh Carthy (GBr) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:03:19
19 François Bidard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:03:54
20 Pavel Sivakov (Rus) Team Sky 0:04:14
The peloton has rolled away from the start and is negotiating the 5km neutralised zone.
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The flag drops as the peloton reaches kilometre zero. There is an immediate injection of pace, and a flurry of early attacks.
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Eddie Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), Willie Smit (Katusha-Alpecin), Nathan Brown (EF-Drapac) and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie) have attacked and opened a lead of 17 seconds over the peloton in these early kilometres.
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Dunbar, Smit, Ourselin and Brown have extended their lead a little further, to 30 seconds. It looks as though this quartet will be afforded some early freedom.
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Dunbar and company have stretched their lead out to 1:15, though given the brevity of the stage, the peloton will be loath to allow them too much of a buffer.
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The four leaders have built up an advantage of 1:30 over the main peloton after crossing the finish line for the first time. There are 5 full laps of the circuit remaining.
Lotto Soudal, Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step are all taking a controlling interest at the head of the peloton, with Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan and Fernando Gaviria, respectively, in mind.
Nairo Quintana demonstrated his pre-Tour de France form with his solo stage victory yesterday, but questions still linger over the hierarchy at Movistar in July, given that he will line out alongside Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa. "The race itself will decide leadership,” Quintana told Cyclingnews. Read more here.
99km remaining from 123km
Dunbar was a hugely impressive winner of the under-23 Tour of Flanders a year ago, and the Banteer man has impressed in his debut season as a professional, placing 8th overall at the Tour de Yorkshire and 4th at the Belgium Tour in recent weeks. He is contributing generously to the pace-making in the break, which is 1:44 clear of the peloton.
It's a busy weekend of racing around Europe and beyond. At the Tour of Slovenia, Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) has claimed stage victory to move into the overall lead with the final time trial to come on Sunday.
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In Switzerland, meanwhile, Dunbar, Smit, Brown and Ourselin have 1:22 in hand on the peloton.
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Dunbar, Ourselin, Smit and Brown cross the finish for the second time. With four laps of the circuit remaining, they hold a lead of 1:56 over a peloton that is being led by the sprinters' teams.
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Richie Porte (BMC) looks well-placed to claim overall victory at this Tour de Suisse, with a lead of 17 seconds over Quintana and a 34km time trial to come on Sunday afternoon. "I've lost some time on the GC but I'm still looking forward to the time trial," Porte said after yesterday's stage. "I'm here to try and win this race and I think it is looking good now. I'm happy with where my form is at. I was good yesterday as well and I hope to have the legs that I need for Sunday." Read more here.
76km remaining from 123km
It's been a brisk start to proceedings as Dunbar and company covered 43.5km in the first hour of racing.
At the OVO Energy Women's Tour, meanwhile, Amalie Dideriksen (Boels-Dolmans) has claimed victory on stage 4.
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Dunbar, Ourselin, Brown and Smit maintain a lead just shy of two minutes over the chasing peloton.
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With three laps of the circuit remain, the leading quartet's advantage has dropped to 1:25.
Richie Porte is tucked comfortably amid a phalanx of his BMC teammates towards the head of the peloton. Thus far, this has been an utterly uneventful stage for the overall leader, and he will hope for more of the same in the final phase of the day.
60km remaining from 123km
Lotto Soudal set the pace in the peloton, 1:30 down on the four escapees.
Nathan Haas (Katusha-Alpecin) performed strongly on stage 6, placing second behind Soren Kragh Andersen. After a spring beset by health problems, the Australian is hoping to ride his way into Katusha's Tour de France selection. “I’m not confirmed to go yet," Haas said. "I really hope that I can make the team. It would be an honour to make the Tour team at Katusha this year. It’s such a strong group, with real leaders like Kittel and Zakarin. I’m just trying to do my best to get there.” Read more here.
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The four leaders continue to collaborate well, but the sprinters' teams appear to have this situation under control. 1:11 the gap.
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Groupama-FDJ are also contributing to the pace-making in the peloton on behalf of Arnaud Demare. This Tour de Suisse is the Frenchman's first race since Paris-Roubaix in April. The Beauvais native will shoulder much of the responsibility for Groupama-FDJ in July given that Thibaut Pinot has confirmed he will not be fit enough to participate after the pneumonia that ended his Giro d'Italia challenge.
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Two laps to go for the four escapees, who have 1:07 in hand on the peloton.
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Dunbar takes another long, long turn on the front of the break. Their advantage stands firm at 1:10, but the sprinters' teams will gradually start to turn the screw behind.
The 23-year-old Ourselin has been among the most aggressive riders on this Tour de Suisse, and indeed his Direct Energie team have adopted an offensive approach to this race. Direct Energie were the only one of the Tour wildcards to miss out on an invitation to the Dauphine, and their riders have been keen to make their case for Tour selection on Swiss roads this week.
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Lotto Soudal take up the reins in the peloton on behalf of Andre Greipel. Porte and his delegation of BMC teammates remain well positioned towards the front.
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The break's lead drops inside a minute for the first time as the sprinters' teams continue to police matters on the head of the peloton. It's difficult to envisage anything other than a bunch finish, but Dunbar, Ourselin, Brown and Smit are sticking diligently to their task out in front.
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Juraj Sagan (Broa-Hansgrohe) hits the front of the peloton in the service of his brother Peter. The break's lead falls to 49 seconds.
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Smit, Brown, Dunbar and Ourselin have 40 seconds in hand on the peloton as they cross the finish and take the bell for the final lap.
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The bunch draws ever closer to the four escapees. 32 seconds the gap.
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The unity of the break fractures as Ourselin attacks. Smit and Ourselin go with him.
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Smit, Dunbar and Ourselin still have 29 seconds in hand on the peloton, but the speed is beginning to ratchet upwards.
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Nathan Brown has rejoined the front of the race. This quartet has 22 seconds on the bunch.
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Astana and Team Sky have sizeable delegations near the head of the bunch. Fernando Gaviria moves up amid a clutch of Quick-Step teammates.
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The break's adventure is almost at an end as the peloton closes to within 12 seconds of the leaders.
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The bunch is almost upon the break, but Dunbar and Smit kick once more to prolong their stint off the front. The Irishman and the South African have 14 seconds in hand on the peloton.
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Dunbar accelerates and is now alone at the head of the race. The Irishman surely won't last too much longer, but he will be the last of the escapees to be swept up by the bunch.
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Dunbar has 10 seconds over a peloton that has caught Brown and Ourselin. Smit, meanwhile, is bridging back up to Dunbar.
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15 seconds for Smit and Dunbar as they enter the final 7 kilometres. The peloton is spread across the road but Quick-Step look poised to take over in front.
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Smit and Dunbar are refusing to yield, and this duo has a lead of 9 seconds over the Quick-Step-led peloton. John Degenkolb has a lot of Trek-Segafredo riders around him.
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Dunbar and Smit are caught by the peloton, and the race is back together.
Bora, QuickStep and Lotto Soudal all have riders at the head of the peloton, which is hurtling along at 65kph.
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The Groupama-FDJ train takes up the pace-making in support of Arnaud Demare.
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Groupama-FDJ reamin on the front, but there is a full complement of sprinters lined up behind them. This promises to be a gripping sprint finish.
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Gaviria and his Quick-Step train move up, as does Sagan's Bora-Hansgrohe support.
Daniel Oss sets a blistering pace on the front before Marcus Burghardt takes over...
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Groupama-FDJ lead into the final kilometre...
Quick-Step lead out the sprint for Gaviria, who goes from distance.
Gaviria leads but Demare is moving up...
Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) wins stage 8 of the Tour de Suisse.
Demare showed an impressive turn of speed to overtake Gaviria. Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) took third ahead of a fast-closing Peter Sagan. Jasper Stuyven was 5th ahead of John Degenkolb.
Richie Porte (BMC) finished safely in the peloton to retain his overall lead, 17 seconds ahead of Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 52 up on Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).
1 Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ 02:41:17
2 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
3 Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
4 Peter Sagan (Slo) Bora-Hansgrohe
5 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
7 Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
8 Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
10 Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
General Classification after stage 8:
1 Richie Porte 28:47:17
2 Nairo Quintana 00:00:17
3 Wilco Kelderman 00:00:52
4 Enric Mas Nicolau 00:00:53
5 Sam Oomen 00:01:13
6 Jakob Fuglsang 00:01:28
7 Mikel Landa 00:01:31
8 Steven Kruijswijk 00:01:37
9 Simon Spilak 00:01:48
10 Bauke Mollemo 00:02:26
General Classification after stage 8:
1 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing Team 28:47:17
2 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 00:00:17
3 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb 00:00:52
4 Enric Mas (Spa) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:53
5 Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb 00:01:13
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 00:01:28
7 Mikel Landa (Spa) Movistar Team 00:01:31
8 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo 00:01:37
9 Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin 00:01:48
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo 00:02:26
Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon. We'll be back with more from Sunday's concluding time trial in Bellinzona. In the meantime, you can find a full report, results and pictures from today's stage here.
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