SAN DIEGO, July 8, 2012 – A weekend in the mountains sounds lovely, but it’s no picnic for the cyclists competing in the Tour de France.
The leading contenders blew threw the rolling mountains of Stage 8 to stay in the lead and position themselves for Monday’s critically important 26-mile time trial, which could decide the overall outcome of this year’s Tour.
By the last climb, riders Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome of Team Sky, Cadel Evans of BMC, Vicenzo Nibali of Liquigas, Haimar Zubeldia of RadioShack-Nissan, and Denis Menchov of Katusha, had shaken off the rest of the field. They all finished together in a group behind the stage winner. Menchov and Zuebeldia have moved up one place, Froome up several spots, with Maxime Monfort of RadioShack-Nissan, Irish cyclist Nicolas Roche of AG2R and Rein Taarame of Confidis staying in the top ten.
Riders start in reverse order of their standings for the time trials. Bradley Wiggins will start last and will know where he stands on time against all the other riders, including his top rival Evans who will start just before him. This is a psychological advantage, especially considering that Wiggins and Evans started in the same positions in last month’s Tour de Suisse, with Wiggins nearly catching up to Evans on the road. Wiggins needs to gain some time on Evans, who is a far better climber than Wiggins and will challenge him on the tougher mountain stages ahead.
The Tour saw its first French stage winner, an elated Thibaut Pinot of FDJ riding in his first Tour de France. He is the youngest rider in the competition, 22 and a few months younger than sprinter Peter Sagan. Team leader Marc Madiot cheered Pinot on out the window of the team car and was overjoyed when he crossed the finish line. Pinot immediately became the top trending term on Twitter in France. As the commentators pointed out, Pinot will be on the front page of all the newspapers in France on Monday morning. Call it France’s own version of “Thibaut-mania.” (Yes, pronounce it like that famous American quarterback).
The overall leaders list after Stage 8:
1. Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) Team Sky
2. Cadel Evans (Australia) BMC (:10)
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Liquigas-Cannondale (:16)
4. Denis Menchov (Russia) Katusha (:54)
5. Haimar Zubeldia (Spain) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (:59)
6. Chris Froome (Great Britain) Team Sky (1:32)
7. Maxime Monfort (Belgium) RadioShack-Nissan-Trek (1:09)
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Belgium) Lotto-Belisol (2:11)
9. Nicolas Roche (Ireland) AG2R (2.21)
10. Rein Taaramae (Estonia) Cofidis (2:27)
With his victory today, Pinot now leads Sky’s Chris Froome by one point in the King of the Mountains competition. The green sprinter’s jersey remains with Peter Sagan. Swedish rider Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana won the most aggressive rider jersey for leading a breakaway until Pinot overtook him in the last climb. Taaramae kept the best young rider’s white jersey for a second day, but American Tejay Van Garderen may get it back Monday, as he is an excellent time trial rider. He needs 1 minute, 41 seconds on Taaramae.
The stage saw one major crash involving three Spanish riders: Samuel Sanchez and Jorge Azanza of Euskaltel-Esukadi and Alejandro Valverde of Movistar. Sanchez was forced to withdraw after suffering a broken collarbone and dislocated shoulder. Sanchez is the defending 2008 Olympic road race champion. It’s doubtful that he will recover enough to be able to compete in London in a few short weeks. Olympic medal hopefuls like Mark Cavendish need to heed what happened to Sanchez today. After a week, 178 out of 198 riders remain in the Tour.
American Chris Horner sits is 14th place, 3:43 back after another strong ride today. He is a strong climber and could end up in the top ten by the end of the Tour. Levi Leipheimer is in 21st place, 4:46 behind.
George Hincapie of BMC sits 20 minutes back in 50th place, but his objective is simply to finish a record-setting 16 Tours. Christian Vandevelde remains 29 minutes back in 81st place. David Zabriskie is 29 minutes plus back in 120th place.
Stage 9 brings us to the individual time trial, the “Race of Truth.” The course is 26 miles from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon. This gives the time trial riders among the GC contenders like Wiggins and Evans a chance to solidify their lead. It also offers the hope for road champions like Fabian Cancellara, Sylvain Chavanel, and Levi Leipheimer the opportunity to make up time they lost on the mountain stages.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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