Chris Froome surprised everyone yesterday as he stole a 16 second march on his GC rivals after a spontaneous attack on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde which has now put him in the Yellow Jersey as the riders face another hellacious day in the Pyrenees.
Yesterday was the first real mountain stage of the Tour and it was expected to shake up the GC, but nobody expected the manner in which Froome and co launched their attack; if the attack was spontaneous as Froome said after the stage; his descending style was certainly not.
The aero tuck position is something only a few riders can perfect, but it seems that has been something Froome has been working on during the course of the season, and it paid off with devastating effect yesterday.
Stage 8 recap - one to remember for Froome
It was billed as a day that the GC guys to come out to play; and that proved to be true as the spectators saw a feast of racing, with the last 20km being the pinnacle of the excitement.
But the day started with a small three man breakaway; Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo), and Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) but they were reeled in as the real action begun on the slopes of the Peyresourde.
On the ascent up the Peyresourde Sky were testing their opponent’s fortitude with double attacks; first it would be Sergio Henao, then Froome would try a little dig. But ultimately it was Froome who surprised Nairo Quintana by attacking on unfamiliar territory, a descent.
Elsewhere in the race, Adam Yates done well to hang onto the White Jersey he was awarded after the flame rouge collapsed on him stage 7; but for Alberto Contador it looks as though his bid for another Yellow Jersey looks to be over as he conceded another minute to Froome, and now stands 3mins12s down on his rival.
It looks as though Roman Kreuziger will take up the reigns as overall leader for Tinkoff considering he is only 34 seconds behind the Brit.
Stage 9 will be another punishing day, with five successive mountain passes
They say Pyrenees and the Alps are the two mountain ranges which heap untold suffering on riders, and yesterday was a prime example of that, but today could be worse.
The riders will tackle five mountains passes, in succession, with one of them being 19km long. After starting with the Port de la Bonaigua (13.7km, 6.1%), the peloton will then will ride up the Port del Canto (19km, 5.4%), Cote de la Comella (4.2km, 8.2%), Col de Beixalis ( 6.4km, 8.5%), and finally the Andorre Arcalis (10.1km, 7.2%) which will see the conclusion of the stage.
There is an intermediate sprint point at Andorre-La-Vielle but it is highly unlikely any of the sprinters will be in contention for that.
But in terms of what to expect; expect the unexpected. Yesterday proved that; nobody really saw Froome’s attack on the descent coming; and although he has a slight lead over Quintana who will most probably be his nearest challenger for the Maillot Jaune come Paris, it could be a completely different day in the saddle for the two-time Tour winner today depending on what the effort took out of him.
But the GC classification will certainly take another shake-up by close of play today – but one rider to look out for today could possibly be Fabio Aru – the Astana leader looked quite perky on the bike yesterday, and has yet to show his strength, so today might be the day he looks throw his hat into the mix.