England’s Adam Yates defended the yellow jersey in combative fashion on the day of drama.
Nans Peters won from the breakaway after a tough day in the Pyrenees in Stage eight of the Tour de France, finishing almost a minute ahead of the chasing Tom Skujins. Carlos Verona and Ilnur Zakarin finished on third and fourth place respectively.
Further back down the road in the heat of the general classification battle, an isolated Adam Yates succeeded in defending the yellow jersey despite a maelstrom of attacks from his rivals. Tadej Pogacar, who gave up a chunk of time yesterday when he failed to navigate the crosswinds in the finale, was the day’s biggest winner in terms of the GC, stealing back 40 of the 81 seconds he lost. The young Slovenian climber of UAE Team Emirates goes back into the top ten overall in Tour de France 2020.
In an edition of the race that some have criticised for being ‘dull’, it seemed as though we experienced an entire Grand Tour in the space of the final hour’s racing. Once the general classification riders sensed weakness in Yates, it turned into a free-for-all, with Bahrain McLaren’s Mikel Landa and Nairo Quintana (Arkéa Samsic) launching attacks in the early part of the day’s last climb, the Col du Peyresourde.
Primoz Roglic and Egan Bernal were, seemingly, the only two favourites not to have a pop, although the Jumbo Visma leader was very active in covering the attacks of others. It’s hard to say if Roglic ‘gifted’ the time gain to compatriot Pogacar or not, but it was certainly the only attack on the Peyresourde that he did not chase down.
Romain Bardet made a daring bid to take the Maillot Jaune with a late sortie and while he did cross the line with a gap he was unable to gain enough time to overhaul Yates. He did leap three places into fourth overall, however.
It was a terrible stage for Thibaut Pinot of Groupama-FDJ, who blew up early and is completely out of the running after a nightmare in the mountains. Another French hope – albeit a long shot for the Tour overall – was Julian Alaphilippe, who put in a peculiarly brief attack before melting away out of contention, losing 18 minutes by the end of the stage.
It was lucky then that Peters is a dyed-in-the-wool Frenchman riding on a French team. AG2R La Mondiale had been three years without a Tour stage win up until today and will be delighted to have a victory as well as the polka dot jersey going into the last day of week one. Peters went away with 12 companions at the start of the day, but the group fell apart on the penultimate climb, the Port de Bales.
It was Jerome Cousin who put in the first attack after some messing around from Benoit Cosnefroy, the aforementioned King of the Mountains. Cousin didn’t have enough in the tank to stay away, but by the time he was brought back the damage to the break was done. Zakarin and Peters formed a strong fighting force together on the uphill, but when the road turned down again the Russian’s infamously poor descending ruled him out of contention for the stage win.