Tour de France 2013 Stage 8 DRAFT
Castres to Ax-3-Domaines 195km


Everyone knew the Eigth Stage of the 2013 Tour de France would be the one that would blow apart the race, upend the standings, and show whom the real favorites for victory would be.  Traveling 195km from Castres to Ax-3-Domaines, the race was on a slow boil, as the two mountains of the day were stacked one behind the other and came after 131km of racing.

That 131km interval between the start and the first climb meant a lot to the race.  It gave the early attackers a chance to get a big lead going into the mountains in hopes of holding off a fast-climbing peloton eager to shake out the pretenders and establish the contenders.

Within a few kilometers, a break of four got away.  Four riders against the grupetto is not much of an advantage, but once the climbing began, it would be mana-a-mano anyways.  Regardless, they quickly rode out to a nine-minute gap, a lead that the field worked steadily to close.

The escapees were first through the intermediate sprint, but only with a five-minute advantage.  When the field came roaring to the sprint, Cannondale Pro Cycling was in the lead, doing their maximum to get fifth-place points for Peter Sagan.  He might have a comfortable lead in the race for the Maillot Vert, but the Points Competition has been decided by a single point in the past, so he's in the hunt for every single place he can score.  Across the line, however, it was Andre Greipel of Lotto-Belisol, followed by Sagan followed by Omega Pharma-Quickstep's Mark Cavendish. One point lost to Greipel; one gained on Cavendish.

With the sprint over, a tired Cannondale squad started conserving their energy for the days ahead.  As the field started up the lower slopes of the Col de Pailheres, Sagan and his teammates eased off the back, their work done.

At the front, the breakaway was blowing apart.  AG2R's Christophe Riblon, a winner at Ax-3-Domaines at a previous Tour, rode away from his companions in hopes of scoring a repeat win.  Behind Team Sky set a furious tempo.  As riders were shed off the back, Movistar's Nairo Quintana attacked. 

The young Colombian, in his first Tour, rode through the remants of the break and into the lead.  He crossed the summit, the highest point in the 2013 Tour, and won the Souvenir de Henri Desgrange for his efforts.

Down the mountain he flew with Europcar's Pierre Rolland chasing.  On the tiny flat section between the end of the descent and the start of the finishing climb to Ax-3-Domaines, Rolland caught Quintana.  But he was dispatched by Quintana as the grade steepened.

Then Sky started their onslaught.  They drove the pace up the mountain, and erased Quintana's lead.  As he was caught, Sky's Chris Froome, their team leader and the hot favorite for victory in Paris attacked.  He shed the remainder of the field.  Behind, Sky's Richie Porte attacked once and earned his own freedom.

Into town, Froome took an impressive solo victory, with nearly a minute gap on his teammate, who himself had seventeen seconds on Alejandro Valverde of Movistar.

With the win, Froome took over not only the Maillot Jaune, but the Polka-Dot Jersey of best climber. He has a 51-second gap on his teammate Porte with Valverde 1:25 in arrears.  After a week of having a single second separating the Yellow Jersey from the rest of the peloton, the gaps are getting huge.  The gap between Yellow and the Lanterne Rouge, the last rider in the race, Tom Veelers of Argos-Shimano, is 1:32:18.

While it is hard to call a stage this hard a rest day, rest was one of the things the Cannondale Team did.  They fought to get Sagan points at the intermediate sprint, and then pulled the plug.  Sagan himself was in recovery mode as well and admitted as much after the finish. "For me, the day was good.  A day to recover.  There's more to come.  Tomorrow is maybe harder than today.  Yesterday, I got an advantage in the Green Jersey Competition.  Today, we controlled that competition.  And then we'll see for the rest of the Tour de France."

Tomorrow, the 168.5km stage from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre, Stage Nine, is an all-day sufferfest, the perfect way to cap off the Pyrenees and empty everyone's tank going into the first rest day.  The race starts uphill, and leading into the second category Col de Portet d'Aspet which summits only 28.5km into the day.  From there, it's a rollercoaster, with four category one climbs: Cols de Mente, Peyresourde, Val Louron-Azet, and Hourquette d'Ancizan, before flying off the Ancizan down to the down of Bagneres-de-Bigorre. 

Tour de France 2013
Stage 8: Castres to Ax-3-Domaines 195km

Stage Results

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                  in   5:03:18             
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling                                           at   0:00:51             
3. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team            0:01:08             
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team                0:01:10             
5. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team            0:01:16           


Stage Results                          

120. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                      0:29:12             
121. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          same time                     
123. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                            same time
134. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        same time
146. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                             same time
150. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        0:30:15
177. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    0:31:15


General Classification

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling                        32:15:55           
2.Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling                                      0:00:51             
3. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team            0:01:25             
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team                0:01:44             
5. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling Team            0:01:50           


70. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                              0:29:38           
74. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                               0:31:39           
80. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        0:35:21           
99. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                          0:45:46           
107. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       0:49:28           
114. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        0:52:56           
119. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          0:55:43           
151. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    1:13:50           


Points Competition

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 234 pts
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol                                       141       
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step           128       
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                      111       
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling                    088