Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

A sprint stage? Probably but this is a deceptively hard stage with plenty of climbs throughout so if there’s a sprint it’s for a different cast of characters.

Grand cru: time trials don’t always make for gripping viewing because the day’s winner might set the fastest time hours before the racing is done. This time things were better, the early starters saw riders going faster and faster. Kévin Vauquelin was the first under 30 minutes, moments later Victor Campenaerts went quicker.

Soon the GC contenders started. Perhaps it was the short 25km course or the mentality that every second still counts, but they seemed to be sprinting out of the start hut. The sense of speed was visible, almost audible as if their tires were screeching around Nuits-Saint-Georges.

Three intermediate time checks – beaucoup for 25km – helped tell the story too. It was close with Jonas Vingegaard in the match early but soon a duel between Remco Evenepoel and Tadej Pogačar. The Belgian started closer but Pogačar was closing in on the climb. On the run to the finish Evenepoel was gaining again. Only he suddenly sat up thinking he’d punctured. This probably provoked tachycardia in his following car but he thought twice and raced on, panic over.

Evenepoel won by 12 seconds. He’d been out to recon the stage several times, to the point where – via L’Equipe’s essentiel podcast – local shopkeepers had become used to seeing un belge riding by.

Speaking post-stage he suggested Pogačar is still in a race of his own for the maillot jaune but Evenepoel is literally on the up. However once again the test for him is repeating long days in the mountains. But he’s looking sharp, veins protruding like his legs were drafted by Richard Rogers. Roglič was third and climbed up to fourth overall. Vingegaard finished fourth to stay third but he’s now over a minute down.

The Route: 183km and 2,400m of vertical gain, a lot for a course that largely stays in a range between 250m and 500m. The five categorised climbs are selections among the many climbs. This region has plenty of long straight roller roads but this course is different, it twists and turns a lot. The last climb at Sexfontaines will sting, unmarked but a good launchpad for an attack or just to thwart some heavyset sprinters.

The Finish: a long straight road into town. It’s gently uphill in the final kilometre, 3%.

The Contenders: sprint or breakaway? It might not be that binary either, the winning move could form later in the stage. The intermediate sprint can matter today because it comes after 59km, will teams control for this long in order to give their house sprinters a chance?

What does today’s finish remind you of? It’s the Dun-le-Palestel sprint in Paris-Nice from 2022, an uphill run after a lumpy stage. You can see Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) winning there but now his crash in Saint-Vulbas has left him sore and just contending and taking some points would be an achievement.

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is a pick because he is fast and suited to the uphill finish, for all the tales of woe so far in the Tour he’s been close twice and the gradient helps him today. However the hillier course doesn’t suit his team mates as well, although if there is a sprint things flatten out towards the end. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) is much more than a sprinter and the course suits him too. Above all this is the stage that suits the brute force of Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny).

More picks come crowding in. Michael Matthews (Jayco), Wout van Aert (Visma-LAB), Marijn van den Berg (EF) are in the mix but outsiders for a straight sprint. Likewise Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and team mate Axel Zingle. If we mention Van Aert then Mathieu van der Poel has to be tipped too in case the shampoo squad change leaders.

De Lie, Philipsen
WvA, Girmay, MvdP
Godon, Coquard, Gaviria, Laurance, Zingle

Weather: early sunshine turning to clouds and then the chance of rain, 20°C tops. The wind will blow from the WSW at 20-25km/h meaning a tricky three quarters tailwind and the chance for some crosswinds, especially if it gusts more with the arrival of rain.

TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST. Tune in early to see if there’s a battle for the breakaway.

Postcard from Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises
How many churches does Colombey have? One, but in case you are wondering about the “two churches” suffix it used to have a priory as well. Ecclesiastical addition aside it’s synonymous in France for Charles De Gaulle, the exiled war leader who was twice President. He chose the village for a second home and later retired here.

In 1960 a Tour stage from Besançon to Troyes =rode through here and De Gaulle was roadside, almost anonymous in the crowd although his tall figure was a clue. The riders halted to chat and pay tribute to the President. It’s the first and only time the race has halted like this. There have been roadside protests, rider strikes and other incidents but not a decision just to stop, chat and then race on. Presidential authority to make today’s incumbent jealous.

The halt was not just anecdotal because Pierre Beuffeuil had been dropped earlier in the stage and was able to get back when the peloton stopped. He then won the stage…at least that’s what the Tour de France website says.

Just be careful about bringing this up with Beuffeuil himself though. 89 years wise these days he was asked about the win recently by local newspaper L’Est Eclair (my translation):

Shit, to turn yourself inside out like I did only to hear, still 60 years on, that I sneaked a stage of the Tour… it’s infuriating

He told another local paper La Nouvelle République:

“Some people ganged together, saying I profited form the pause when the peloton stopped… …it’s absolutely false, I won that stage “à la pédale”. I even started from Colombey behind the peloton because I’d stopped for a pee.”

Beuffeuil retired from pro cycling and to run oyster farm on the Atlantic coast. He’s still riding today and told La Nouvelle République he’s doing 8,000km a year and had racked up 100km the day before they spoke to him, perhaps this helps explain the energetic declarations. Most importantly he won another stage of the Tour de France in 1966, a point he’s only too happy to ram home when asked about 1960.

23 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

    • Is he? I’d heard a team mate of his saying he’s gone back to focussing on sprinting and less work in the hills. Today’s finish is just a gentle slope but we’ll see how he and others cope with the climbs in the way.

  1. Arnaud De Lie talked about having marked this stage as his prime target it would be great to see him take his first Tour stage, he’s been close all week.
    I think the shampoo squad will be out to prove a point today and tomorrow.

  2. Have to wonder if such a “boring” or “pointless” stage might just trip up the Yellow jersey and his team, especially if weather comes in near the end.

  3. thanks for the late Richard Rogers reference – service pipework and structure on show externally to building (e.g Pompidou and Lloyds)

  4. So what was the noise Remco heard that sounded like a trye deflating fast?
    He’s in the game but the usual one bad day in the high mountains will probably put piad to that (fingers crossed he doesn’t have one).

  5. Pogacar should be happy with yesterday’s result losing time only to Evenepoel who he should be able to both isolate and distance in the high mountains. His advantage to Vingegaard is becoming substantial.

  6. Interesting to contrast the story above re. stopping to chat to de Gaulle, with the UCI’s response to Julien Bernard’s stop to hug his wife and greet friends, and to Davide Ballerini stopping to look at a big screen for a few seconds!

  7. Gald that Remco got his stage win, Roglic & Vingegaard slipping slowly back.
    The weather might be the big talking point tomorrow about stage 8, or it’ll be a bunch sprint.

  8. I think today would have been nailed on for a prime Van Aert. He appears fairly well short of his best though so I’ll go with De Lie today.

  9. Terrible news from austria: Andre Drege crashed in the descent from the grossglockner, he didnt make it. Rest in Peace Andre…. Again, what is wrong with our sport?

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