Thibault Pinot becomes the first Frenchman to win a stage of this year’s Tour de France, albeit on Swiss soil. The Francais des Jeux man succeeded in staying away from a strong ten man group containing; Wiggins (Sky), Evans (BMC), Nibali (LIQ), van den Broeck (LOT), and Froome (Sky). Triggering emotional scenes at the finish in the Swiss town of Porrentruy.
At one point it looked as though the group might catch him. But Pinot held on with his team’s Director Sportif, Mark Madoit, roaring encouragement from the support car behind. Pinot had taken the lead on the final climb passing Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff who had been out front since the fifth climb.
There was little change in the overall standings. Although we were treated to a taste of things to come at the summit of the final climb. It was here an elite group of ; Wiggins, Evans, Nibali, van den Broeck, Froome, Menchov (CON), Zubeldia (RSN), Schleck (RSN) and Horner (RSN) formed.
Nibali saw an opportunity to apply pressure and attacked twice on the descent. Wiggins and Evans along with the others were just about able to keep pace, but Chris Froome came close to losing it on one corner. Near the finish Evans launched an attempt to steal some seconds but he was shut down by Wiggins and the rest of the group.
It was an exciting stage right from the off as a number of riders tried to get into breaks. Team Sky had to work hard to control things in the early stages and it took a long time for the race to settle down. At one point a group of 20 were away from the peloton. But on the fifth climb Kessiakoff and Roy (FDJ) broke away. Kessiakoff then left Roy embarking on a long solo attempt before being caught by Pinot. His only reward for his impressive efforts was the stage's combatively prize.
But no one will begrudge Pinot his win, he rode excellently. And it was a great reward for a team that so often get into breaks and enliven races for no return. The main contenders will now turn their minds to tomorrow’s 41.5 km individual time trial from Art et Senans to Besancon. Bradley Wiggins will be hoping to gain a few seconds on main rival Cadel Evans.
Overall yellow jersey standings after stage eight.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky) 38hr 17’ 56”
Cadel Evans (BMC) +0’10”
Vincenzo Nibali (LIQ) +0’16”
Denis Menchov (KAT) +0’54”
Haimer Zubeldia (RSN) +0’59”