Rasmussen Takes Stage 8 and Yellow Jersey
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) leads the Tour de France. The Danish climber surged from the peloton to catch and drop a breakaway en route to victory in the mountainous, 165-km ride from Le Grand Bornand to Tignes in 4:49:40. Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) finished second at 2:47, and Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) took third at 3:12.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. The attacks kept the pace high and resulted in the sprinters getting dropped on the Category 4 Col du Marais. On the approach to the Category 2 Col de Temie, 18 riders sallied off of the front. Among them were Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), David Millar (Saunier Duval), Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Jens Voigt (CSC), Stephane Goubert (Ag2r), Stefan Schumacher and Bernhard Kohl (both from Gerolsteiner), and George Hincapie (Discovery Channel). At the summit of the Col de Temie (46.5 km), the group led the field by 1:40. The bunch kept the break on a short leash, and at the feed zone at 77 km, the lead had not grown.
On the Category 1 Cormet de Roseland, Rasmussen attacked from the peloton. Attrition had taken its toll on the break, and the Rabobank man, with David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne) in tow, began to reel in riders. He led Rogers, Arroyo, Goubert, Kohl, and Colom over the summit. The peloton was 5:10 in arrears.
On the descent, disaster struck. Rogers ran into a guardrail while Arroyo flipped over it. Arroyo climbed back to the road and got back on his bike, but Rogers struggled to get to his feet. He rode on for a time, but eventually the Australian abandoned. The abandonments of Mark Cavendish and Rogers and the loss of Linus Gerdemann's yellow jersey made for a hideous day for T-Mobile.
With 18 km remaining, Rasmussen dropped Colom and Arroyo. The Dane would ride unmolested to a stage win and the yellow jersey, but for those in the yellow jersey group, the action was just beginning.
The yellow jersey group consisted of Gerdemann; Mayo; Valverde; Cadel Evans (Predictor); Christophe Moreau (Ag2r); Alberto Contador, Levi Leipheimer, and Yaroslav Popovych (all from Discovery Channel); Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck (both from CSC); Denis Menchov (Rabobank); and Andreas Kloden, Andrei Kashechkin, and Alexander Vinokourov (all from Astana). French champion Moreau attacked and took Mayo, Popovych, Evans, Schleck, Contador, Valverde, Evans, and Kashechkin with him.
Moreau's attacks dropped Popovych. Contador had a mechanical problem but eventually got back on. Behind, Vinokourov, who was still suffering from the effects of his Stage 5 crash, needed a tow from Kloden. If Valverde and Mayo had worked with Moreau instead of simply covering his attacks, they might have put a lot of time in to the Kazakh rider. Nonetheless, the two Spaniards are in a good position.
The end of the stage did not end T-Mobile's suffering. Patrik Sinkewitz was riding his bicycle from the finish line to the team hotel when he struck a pedestrian. The pedestrian was hospitalized in serious condition, and Sinkewitz suffered a broken nose.
Many other riders, including some big name ones, left the Tour today. Stuart O'Grady (CSC) crashed and suffered eight broken ribs and a possible punctured lung. Robbie McEwen (Predictor), who crashed in Stage 1 but recovered to win that stage, finished outside of today's time limit and was disqualified. The knee that he injured in his Stage 1 crash continues to trouble him.
In the overall, Rasmussen leads Gerdemann by 0:43 and Mayo by 2:39. Tomorrow will be the Tour's first rest day, and those riders who are injured, fatigued, or ill can heal themselves. Tuesday's Stage 9 will be the final Alpine stage. The 159.5-km ride from Val d'Isere to Briancon will feature the hors categorie Col de l'Iseran, the Category 1 Col du Telegraphe, and the hors categorie Col du Galibier. It ends with a 37-km descent to the finish. Who will win it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!