Four climbs were on the menu of stage 8 of the Tour de France with the tough course and hot temperatures leading to a shake up of the GC.
The second act of the Pyrenees got underway Saturday at noon, when stage 8 (Pau – Bagnères-de-Luchon, 184 kilometres) had to wait until the second hour for a break to take shape.
The day was dubbed by everyone as being one of the most complicated in the entire race, as four categorised climbs stood between the riders and the finish in the Haute-Garonne department, and maybe for that reason there weren’t many men willing to attack.
The hard route, blazing start, scorching heat and melting tarmac didn’t scare Tony Martin, who surged clear from the pack on the iconic Col du Tourmalet, leaving in pursuit of Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), the two leaders at that moment.
Martin showed that his condition and motivation are high, and even though he was distanced before the top of Tourmalet, it didn’t took him too much to gain ground and rejoin the leading duo before Horquette d’Ancizan. The trio weren’t allowed by the bunch to take more than three minutes, but even so managed to remain up the road until Col de Val Louron-Azet, a climb which made its Tour de France debut in 1997.
On the toughest section of that ascent, Team Sky pushed a fierce pace which shredded the peloton, only 20-25 riders making it over the top. Then, on the final hurdle of the day – Col de Peyresourde (7.1 kilometers, 7.8% average gradient) – as the group was coming closer and closer to the summit, Dan Martin and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) tested the others, their action prompting an immediate response.
Just as everybody was preparing for the descent leading to Bagnères-de-Luchon, Chris Froome (Team Sky) powered away, quickly building a 20-second advantage, which helped him take the win and the yellow jersey.
Dan Martin patiently waited for the final 200 metres to kick off his sprint, and crossed the line 13 seconds later at the front of the chasing group to take second. On a day which saw many GC riders lose a significant amount of time, the 29-year-old Irishman moved up five places in the overall rankings. He now sits in 4th position, trailing the new leader of the race for just 17 seconds.
Dan Martin: “There’s no easy day at the Tour de France and we saw that again today. I knew I had good legs at the start, I was feeling good after yesterday and was really comfortable. Julian gave everything to help me on the first climb, so chapeau to him. I remained calm at all times and was well-positioned on a day which saw everybody test each other. When Chris attacked and took a handful of seconds, we chased but couldn’t bring him back. What it matters is that I am in fine form, a reward of the hard training I’ve done on the climbs before the Tour. I am happy with the way things are going for me in the GC, and hopefully a win is just around the corner.”