Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) claimed an epic victory in Saint-Etienne, his second one at the Tour de France after winning at Mont Ventoux in 2016, at the end of a breakaway he initiated at km 0. He managed to hold off the French duo of Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphilippe who rode away from the yellow jersey group on the Côte de La Jaillère with 12.5km to go. Pinot moved to third overall while Alaphilippe got the lead back after two days of glory for Giulio Ciccone who remains the best young rider.
173 riders took the start of stage 8 in Mâcon after Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) withdrew after he broke a thumb at km 7 of the previous stage. Thomas De Gendt, Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) and Ben King (Dimension Data) rode away from the gun at the initiative of the Belgian. Mads Würtz Schmidt (Katusha-Alpecin) was close to bridging the gap but didn’t make it and went back to the pack.
Alessandro De Marchi (CCC) made a smart move by himself and came across to the leading trio at km 22. Terpstra passed first at the intermediate sprint at Cercié-en-Beaujolais (km 33) where the peloton was timed with its maximum deficit of five minutes, after which Bora-Hansgrohe and Sunweb took control of the peloton.
De Gendt who is another option for Lotto-Soudal alongside Tim Wellens in the fight for the polka dot jersey passed first over the Col de la Croix Montmain (km 51), Col de la Croix de Thel (km 71), Col de la Croix Paquet (km 84.5), Côte d’Affoux (km 97), Côte de la Croix de Part (km 133) where the leading quartet split in two with De Gendt and De Marchi at the front and Terpstra and King unable to hold their pace.
De Gendt was first atop the Côte d’Aveize (km 148.5) while Terpstra and King were reeled in by the peloton led by Astana with a deficit of 3’30’’. Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) abandoned due to sickness.
EF Education First took over the hunt of the two leaders with 42km to go. The gap was down to one minute when Team Ineos collectively crashed on a downhill, including defending champion Geraint Thomas, with 17km to go.
De Gendt attacked solo 14km before the end on the Côte de La Jaillère. He crested solo while De Marchi was reeled in before the top. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) attacked to grab 5″ at the bonus sprint, followed by Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who grabbed 2″. The two Frenchmen combined efforts to chase De Gendt down but were unable to catch him.
De Gendt won by six seconds while Pinot and Alaphilippe crossed the line 20 seconds ahead of the yellow jersey group. It brought two Frenchmen into the top three of the Tour de France for the first time since Thomas Voeckler and Sandy Casar from stages 5 to 12 in 2004 as Alaphilippe got the yellow jersey back and Pinot moved into third place with best young rider Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) in between.
Hampered by a crash, defending champion Geraint Thomas (Ineos) made it back to the group of the favourites only deprived of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) who couldn’t hold the pace on the last climb.