Calmejane Soloes to Stage Victory
Today's stage 8 of the 2017 Tour de France marked the return to the mountains with the peloton entering the Jura Mountains on the 187.5 kilometer route from Dole to Station des Rousses.
Following two flat stages, many riders within the Tour peloton were eager to try their luck in various breakaway constellations.
Eventually, after approximately 70 kilometer, the peloton split and a large group of 40 riders went clear with the BMC Racing Team strongly represented by Greg Van Avermaet, Damiano Caruso, Nicolas Roche and Michael Schär.
The peloton eventually decided to let the breakaway group break free and build a three-minute lead. From this large breakaway group, a smaller 13-rider group was later established. This group fought on ahead and gained a one minute lead on their former breakaway companions inside the final 100 kilometers of today's stage.
A regrouping of the two front groups saw the four BMC Racing Team rider reunited, chasing a leading duo of Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) and Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension Data).
Van Avermaet managed to bridge to the leading duo in a small group to create a strong four-rider breakaway, before being joined by Roche and a few others which saw eight riders in the lead, two minutes ahead of the peloton, which featured the general classification favorites.
With 24 kilometers to go, on the early slopes of the La Combe de Laisa Les Molunes Climb, the Roche and Van Avermaet group had 1 minute and 20 seconds on the peloton when an exhausted Van Avermaet had to fall back to the main peloton.
Teammate Roche forged on ahead and put in an impressive ride to attack on multiple occasions and keep the pace high as the peloton worked hard to bring them back.
Lilian Calmejane launched the winning move inside the final 18 kilometers, with Roche on his wheel, and was able to go solo over the summit and start the 12 kilometers approach to the finish where he eventually claimed the stage win, despite suffering from sudden cramps with five kilometers to go.
"It’s huge, I can barely believe it, it’s pretty much everything I was dreaming of at the start." stage winner nad Tour-newcomer Calmejane explained. "Last year at the Vuelta a Espana I won in a similar manner. This is my first Tour, I win the eighth stage - it's a wonderful victory."
“Four kilometers from the end and at the finish I had cramps every time I straightened my leg and I wasn’t far away from a catastrophe.
Team Sky Pro Cycling's defending Tour de France Champion Chris Froome remains overall race leader before tomorrow's Queen Stage of the Tour de France 2017 - an especially challenging 181.5 kilometer mountain-filled stage 9 route from Nantua to Chambery.
“Especially after today, I think tomorrow is going to be a really decisive day in this year’s Tour," Froome told Roadcycling.com. "We could see, in the main general classification guys, the gaps open right up tomorrow. The descent down to Chambery after Mont du Chat is tricky to say the least. All in all we’re going to see a very aggressive day of racing tomorrow.”
Froome and teammate Geraint Thomas crashed in today's stage, but were both able to continue unaffected, with the peloton group waiting for them to regain contact.
"I’d just gone back for bottles and I’d just got back to the front asking the boys if they wanted one and went into the corner a bit too hot. When the boys started braking I was just a split second late and hit the gravel," Thomas explained.
"It was a case of go down into the trees, or hit the hay bale - so I chose the hay bale and I front flipped, but I think it was better option than the woods,” Thomas added.
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