Frenchman Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) soloed to victory on stage 8 of the Tour de France from Dole to Station des Rousses today, earning the biggest win of his career as Chris Froome (Team Sky) hung on to the yellow jersey.
After a number of breakaways were brought back during the opening half of the stage, a group of sixteen riders finally got clear after 98 kilometres.
This was reduced to an eight-man group which formed with 48km to go: Calmejane, Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Nicolas Roche and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac).
On the first category Montée de la Combe de Laisia les Molunes, the group started to splinter with Van Avermaet first to get dropped, followed by Clarke and Bakelants.
Roche and Pauwels went clear and were soon joined by Calmejane and Gesink. Calmejane then rode away alone with 17 kilometres remaining. He was chased by Gesink and it looked for a time that the Dutchman would bridge across. Despite suffering with cramps with 5 kilometres to go, he overcame the pain to maintain his 40 seconds advantage over lone chaser Gesink.
The group containing all of the contenders for overall victory finished 50″ behind the Frenchman.
It’s Calmejane’s first Tour de France victory and the second for a French rider this year after Arnaud Démare on stage 4 in Vittel. Calmejane also took the polka dot jersey as Marcel Kittel (Quick Step Floors) retained the green jersey.
Lilian Calmejane: “I hope everyone enjoyed the show. As a team, we had decided to go on the offensive and it paid off. In the finale, I knew Gesink wasn’t far behind. But I didn’t give anything away. I got a bit scared when I cramped between 6 and 4km to go but I had the experience of the same thing happening at Tour de l’Ain last year and I knew what to do.
“What a relief when I crossed the line. It’s fantastic. This is the way of racing I like. I’m a rider with a lot of panache. I don’t like chasing World Tour points or a place on GC. We’ll see what my future is like. I’m not the future Bernard Hinault. This is my first Tour de France. It’s too early to tell what lies ahead for me.
“As for the polka dot jersey, there are a lot of points tomorrow, so the jersey will be on someone else’s shoulder. I’ll be in the unknown after spending so much energy today, maybe a bit more than the other riders, but later on in the race and in years to come, the polka dot jersey could become a goal because the points scale makes it accessible to attackers as well as pure climbers.”