Mark Cavendish rode the perfect sprint to win the stage by five bike lengths. The Columbia team has now won two stages and they keep the lead in the general, points and youth classification!
The top 10 in stage eight is:
1. Mark Cavendish (GBR) Columbia - 172.5km in 4h02’54"
2. Gerald Ciolek (GER) Columbia
3. Jimmy Casper (FRA) Agritubel
4. Oscar Freire (ESP) Rabobank
5. Robert Forster (GER) Gerolsteiner
6. Erik Zabel (GER) Milram
7. Gert Steegmans (BEL) Quickstep
8. Sebastian Chavanel (FRA) FDJ
9. Thor Hushovd (NOR) Credit Agricole
10. Robbie Hunter (RSA) Barloworld
Cavendish and Ciolek have finished first and second in stage eight of the Tour de France.
Cavendish has raced past Steegmans in the final 200m to win his second stage of the 2008 Tour de France.
Quickstep is in control in the final kilometer but the sprinters are about to open up the throttle... let the sprint begin!
Pick your sprinter! With less than 1km to go, they’re all represented and, despite the wet roads, there’s not been any falls in the finale.
Cavendish, Zabel, Freire, Cooke, Hunter, Steegmans, Chicchi, Pozatto, McEwen... they’re all there are the front with less than 2km to go.
Bernhard Eisel is leading Burghardt, Lovkvist and Hincapie at the head of the peloton. It’s a perfect lead-out for the winner of stage five, Mr Cavendish.
Txurruka and Pineau didn’t give in easily but they couldn’t hold off the peloton which caught them with 3.5km to go.
The latest time check has Pineau and Txurruka 8" ahead. They have 5km to go. When Txurruka was in his first escape in the Tour, it was stage 12 last year. He was caught 1,400 meters from the line in Castres.
With 6km to go, the peloton is 17" behind the two stage leaders.
Millar is jinxed with mechanicals. He has punctured again and is now waiting for the Garmin team car.
The teams of the sprint specialists are now in charge of the peloton: Credit Agricole for Hushovd, Quickstep for Steegmans, Rabobank for Freire, Gerolsteiner for Haussler and Forster, Liquigas for Pozatto and Chicchi... they are 25" behind Pineau and Txurruka.
Adam Hansen of the Columbia team is now pushing the pace for the peloton which is 30" behind Pineau and Txurruka.
Laurent Lefevere may have just been caught by the peloton but the Frenchman will attend the podium protocol to collect the trophy for the most aggressive rider prize in stage eight.
With 10km to go, Txurruka and Pineau are 40" ahead of the peloton which is about to swallow up Lefevere and Riblon.
The eighth stage has been contested on wet road. For the moment, the rain has stopped falling in Toulouse but the water remains on the road, making conditions slippery for the finish.
Pineau and Txurruka are 45" ahead of the peloton. The other two escapees are now drifting back to the peloton after failing to follow the attack by Pineau. The two dropped riders are 8" behind the two stage leaders.
Pineau has attacked the lead group with 13km to go. He has been matched by Txurruka while Lefevere and Riblon have been dropped.
Pineau (BTL), Lefevere (BTL), Txurruka (EUS) and Riblon (ALM) are 40" ahead with 15km to go.
The Liquigas team - which has two sprinters (Pozzato and Chicchi) - has been the most active in the chase. They have been at the front of the peloton for 62 percent of the last 10 minutes. The rest of the time a rider from Credit Agricole has been setting the pace.
There has been a lot of punctures in the 8th stage. The latest was for Leonardo Duque, the Colombiabn Cofidis rider who has finished in the top 10 in both the bunch sprint stages (10th in St-Brieuc and 7th in Chateauroux).
Pineau (BTL), Lefevere (BTL), Txurruka (EUS) and Riblon (ALM) have just passed under the 20km to go banner. Their advantage has shrunk to 40".
The teams of sprinters Hushovd, Chicchi and Cavendish are taking the responsibility of chasing down the escapees who have increased their tempo and lifted their advantag back up to 50" with 21km to go.
Each of the four riders in the lead of the stage are now standing and attempting to increase their advantage on the peloton which got as close as 30" (with 33km to go). That lead has blown out to 53".
The four leaders are less than 25km from the finish. The peloton is being led by C.A and seven Liquigas riders; they have just reeled in the escape by Terpstra. With 25km to go, the peloton was 50" behind Pineau’s group.
Pineau, Lefevere, Riblon and Txurruka are 30" ahead of Terpstra and 45" ahead of the peloton. Liquigas and Credit Agricole lead the main pack.
Pineau’s quartet is 32" ahead of the peloton and 17" ahead of Terpstra.
The attacking antics instigated by Bichot and Auge has prompted some action in the peloton. Terpsra (MRM) is now 30" ahead of the peloton.
Milram’s Nicki Terpstra is insisting with the escape. He has opened up a lead of about 25" on the peloton.
The move by Auge and Bichot has prompted a reaction from the three others: Gerrans, Terpstra and Willems.
Ricco is at the back of the peloton along with three team-mates including David De La Fuente.
Bichot and Auge have jumped off the front of the peloton. But there has been a reaction from the peloton.
The four leaders lost an advantage of over four minutes in about 20km of racing. Pineau, Lefevere, Txurruka and Riblon are now just 45" ahead of the peloton. They reached a maximum gain of 5’15" at the 110km mark.
They are now 35km from the finish don’t even appear interested in pushing on to stay ahead of the bunch that is now being controlled by the Columbia team.
The points for the third intermediate sprint of the 8th stage (in Rabastens, 38km from the finish) were won by:
1. Laurent Lefevere (BTL) 6pts
2. Amets Txurruka (EUS) 4pts
3. Jerome Pineau (BTL) 2pts
The peloton was 50" behind.
â€śWe started to set the tempo at the head of the peloton because we felt it was time to do so if we want to reel in the escapees,â€ť said Serge Bercherie of the Credit Agricole team. â€śIn weather like this, some teams can stop riding and when that happens, itâ€™s necessary to do the work early. With a leader like Thor we cannot play with fire. Weâ€™re here to win stages and thatâ€™s why we accept the responsibility of the chase.â€ť
Ricco is currently riding through the convoy of team cars at the rear of the peloton. He is about to catch the bunch with the help of three Saunier Duval team-mates.
The four escapees have lost a lot of their advantage. The work by Credit Agricole quickly diminished the five minute-plus gain earned by Pineau et al... the bunch is now 45km from the finish and is less than one minute behind.
Riccardo Ricco has dropped behind the peloton by 1’30". He now has two Saunier Duval team-mates riding along to support him after the crash with 52km to go.
Pineau’s quartet is losing time quickly now that the Credit Agricole team is driving the peloton. The latest check has the bunch 2’30" behind.
Riccardo Ricco is holding his right thigh as he races to rejoin the peloton after his recent crash. He doesn’t have any team-mates with him but he has the rear of the bunch within his sights.
The advantage of the escapees has dropped to below three minutes with 50km to go.
Voigt, Ricco, Ciolek and Lancaster, the riders caught up in the recent fall, are all back on their bikes and riding again.
Voigt, Ricco and Ciolek have been caught up in a crash in the peloton.
In the last 10 minutes the Credit Agricole team has spent 81 percent of the time on the front of the peloton.
As the peloton arrive in Gaillac (115km), its deficit to the leading quartet is 3’55".
Pineau’s quartet is currently riding through the center of Gaillac. The town where the French minister for sport, Berard Porte, grew up.
Three teams are now taking responsibility for the chase of the four escapees. Pineau, Lefevere, Txurruka and Riblon were 4’50" ahead as the bunch passed the 112.5km mark. This has recently dropped to 4’30" thanks to the efforts of riders from Credit Agricole, Rabobank and Liquigas.
There are now four riders from the Credit Agricole team at the head of the peloton. The maximum gain for the escape was 5’15" at the 110km mark. The four escapees now have an advantage of 4’55".
The last time a stage of the Tour de France concluded in Toulouse was in 2003. As part of the centenary celebrations, which included visits to each of the six cities that hosted stage finishes in 1903 - Toulouse included - the finish was on an aerodrome on the outskirts of the city. The winner of that stage was Juan Antonio Flecha who finished on his own. This time the finish is near the center.
After his puncture, Riblon has caught back up with his fellow escapees. They are 60km from the finish of the eighth stage which is in the center of Toulouse.
There are two riders from the Credit Agricole team now moving forward in the peloton. Simon Gerrans and one other look poised to start cooperating with Team Columbia to try and reduce the advantage of the escapees.
The French minister for sport and former coach of the national rugby team, Bernard Laporte, is in the car with the Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme today. He grew up in Gaillac (which is at the 116km mark of todayâ€™s stage) and played rugby for the local team.
One of the four in the lead of the stage has just had a flat back tire. Riblon was serviced quickly by his AG2R mechanic and is now racing to rejoin the other three at the front.
The leaders are now 70km from the finish with an advantage of 5’15" on Lefevere, Pineau, Txurruka and Riblon.
The peloton is at the 113km mark with a deficit of 5’10" on the four escapees. This is the maximum gain so far today.
None of the riders in the lead of stage eight have previously won a stage of the Tour de France. Amets Txurruka came close in a stage contested near where today’s stage concludes in last year’s Tour. He was part of an escape that was caught in the closing kilometers of stage 12 last year.
The Euskaltel rider caught the attacking bug that day and would try again and again in the 94th edition of the Tour. He earned the title of Most Aggressive rider in the 2007 Tour for his toil.
The 13th stage of last year’s Tour was a time trial contested on a course that started and finished in Albi, the capital of the Tarn department which is near where the peloton is now. The fastest rider that day was later disqualified (thus remaining nameless on LeTour.fr) but the winner was Cadel Evans... even though he never got the chance to stand on the podium and receive the plaudits for his achievements. Instead he was notified of the success in an email months after the race.
The peloton has arrived in the feedzone (at the 89km mark). It is 4’35" behind Lefevere, Txurruka, Pineau and Riblon.
The site of the time trial finish for a stage of the 2003 Tour, Cap Decouverte is near the course today. It was the last site of a stage win for Jan Ullrich who claimed his victory on a scorching hot day of the centenary Tour.
Lefevere worked up a maximum advantage on the peloton of 5’05" at the 80km mark. The leading quartet are now 4’30" ahead of the peloton and have covered over half of the course today.
The average speed for the second hour was 40.8km/h. The average for the first two hours combined is 43.2km/h.
At the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint (at the 85km mark), the peloton was 4’25" behind Lefevere, Pineau, Txurruka and Riblon.
At the 85km mark, the points were won by:
1. Christophe Riblon (ALM) 6pts
2. Laurent Lefevere (BTL) 4pts
3. Amets Txurruka (EUS) 2pts
Lefevere, Txurruka, Pineau and Riblon are now together at the front of the stage. Their advantage over the peloton at the 83km mark is 5’05".
Lefevere is waiting for the other escapees as they arrive in Carmaux. This town in the Tarn department is the site of the 2nd intermediate sprint of the stage. The race leader is 10" ahead of Riblon, Txurruka and Pineau.
Pineau is now 5’00" ahead of the peloton which means he’s currently the virtual leader of the 95th Tour de France. His trio is 30" behind Lefevere.
It’s clear that the counter-attacking trio are keen to collaborate today. Riblon recently had some gear problems and, as he tried to sort it out, Txurruka gave him a push to keep him in the paceline.
Lefevere appears to have finally found out that one of his team-mates is in the counter-attack. He is now 50" ahead of Pineau, Riblon and Txurruka and 5’35" ahead of the peloton.
LeTour.fr asked the manager of the Columbia team if there a temptation for Columbia to surrender the lead in the general classification to try and take some pressure off the teamâ€™s riders? â€śThat could happen,â€ť said Bob Stapleton. â€śWe need to be careful and budget our resources very well. We spent a lot of energy in this Tour already. We paid for the success of the sprinters in stage four and a huge amount on the way to Aurillac so weâ€™re going to have to be cautious. If it continues like this, itâ€™s not clear that we will try and defend the yellow jersey. Weâ€™re literally making up our minds on a day-by-day basis."
â€śCSC made things interesting in the seventh stage,â€ť said the manager of the Columbia team, Bob Stapleton after the stage to Aurillac. â€śItâ€™s a battle of attrition. They want to try and tire us out and make Caisse dâ€™Epagne and Silence-Lotto work. Theyâ€™re clever. Bjarne [Riis] has done this a few times. Heâ€™s one of the tactically smartest guys here. It wasnâ€™t a big surprise and we were kind of expecting it sooner or later.â€ť
It was a move that split the peloton at the halfway mark of the 159km stage. But Stapleton was still impressed with the effort of Kim Kirchen and his colleagues in a rapid stage.
â€śSiutsou completely buried himself and weâ€™ll need a good recovery for him because weâ€™ll need him in the mountains. He did a huge job and I couldnâ€™t be more proud of the way the guys rode. He, Hincapie, Bughardtâ€¦ they all did a good job. The guys who weâ€™re really counting on for the mountains all came through.â€ť
At the top of the final climb of the eighth stage, the peloton is 5’30" behind Lefevere.
There have been numerous punctures during the wet eighth stage. The latest to suffer a flat tire was Oscar Pereiro.
At the top of the final categorized climb of the stage, Lefevere claimed first place points.
The results for the cote du Port de la Besse are:
1. Laurent Lefevere (BLT) 4pts
2. Amets Txurruka (EUS) 3pts - 1’40"
3. Jerome Pineau (BTL) 2pts
4. Christophe Riblon (ALM) 1pt
Lefevere has just crested the final categorized climb of the stage. His lead is 1’40" over Pineau and co.
The advantage of the stage leader on the chasing trio is 1’35". Lefevere is now 5’00" ahead of the peloton.
Lefevere is 2km from the summit of the cote de Port de la Besse, a category-three rise that peaks at the 70.5km mark. Apparently he has no two-way radio and thus may not yet know that Pineau is in the counter-attack.
Despite a team-mate in the counter-attack, Lefevere is insisting with his escape on his own. He leads Riblon, Txurruka and Pineau by 1’35" and the peloton by 4’40".
The points for the first intermediate sprint of the stage were won by:
1. Laurent Lefevere (BTL) 6pts
2. Amets Txurruka (EUS) 4pts - at 1’30"
3. Christophe Riblon (ALM) 2pts
Pineau, Txurruka and Riblon have just site of the first intermediate sprint 1’30" behind Lefevere.
Laurent Lefevere has won six points as the first rider over the line at the sprint in La Salvetat-Peyrales (57.5km).
Of the four riders ahead of the peloton, the best placed on general classification after seven stages is Jerome Pineau (BTL). He was 30th overall at the end of the first week, 4’32" behind Kirchen.
At the 52.5km mark, the peloton is 3’45" behind Lefevere.
1. Laurent Lefevere (BTL) 3pts
2. Amets Txurruka (EUS) 2pts - at 1’30"
3. Christophe Riblon (ALM) 1pt
The stage leader is past the cote de la Guionie at the 52.5km mark. His lead on the peloton is up to 3’00" and the bunch appears uninterested in chasing him down.
In between the leader and the bunch are three riders: Txurruka, Pineau and Riblon. The Spaniard is the one doing most of the work in pursuit of Lefevere and his trio is 1’30" behind at the top of the 3rd climb.
The average speed for the first hour was 45.6km/h.
Lefevere leads Pineau, Txurruka and Riblon by 1’30" and the peloton - which is now led by riders from the Columbia team - by 2’30".
Riblon has caught Txurruka and Pineau. They are now in pursuit of Lefevere who had a lead of 1’30" at the last check.
Christophe Riblon of the AG2R team is now trying to catch the two other counter-attackers, Txurruka and Pineau.
The third climb of the stage is the 1.5km long cote de la Guionie (which peaks at the 52.5km mark). The advantage of Lefevere is 1’35" ahead of Txurruka and Pineau and 1’50" ahead of the peloton.
With Lefevere’s lead up to 1’25", Amets Txurruka (EUS) has attacked the peloton in the hope of chasing down the Frenchman who attacked at the 40km mark. The Spaniard is being marked by one of Lefevere’s team-mates Jerome Pineau who is refusing to come through and do a turn.
Magnus Backstedt of the Garmin team missed out on finishing in the time limit in stage seven. The Swede was 32â€™25â€ť behind Luis Sanchez. He posted a diary entry on the teamâ€™s site overnight explaining his current state. â€śThis yearâ€™s Tour ended like so many others have for me with an early withdrawal. It certainly wasnâ€™t for the lack of trying, legs or even injury this time.
â€śI had a very high acid level in my body, possibly brought on by the stomach bug I got in the Giro [dâ€™Italia]. The more I raced, the more lactate I built up and my body just stored it. Luckily this was caught by the teamâ€™s medical group and I was put on a low acid diet to give my body a chance to regroup. Basically a complete detox!
â€śThe first two days I was going okay, but nothing specialâ€¦ What happened yesterday I still canâ€™t explain: 50km in my legs started building up lactic acid and I couldnâ€™t get rid of it. Then when we hit the 4th category climb, I just popped. I couldnâ€™t get out of the seat and by 500m to the top, I could not even turn my legs over. I had to cruise for a bit to recover and then set about trying to get inside the time limit. I knew it was a tall task, but I wasnâ€™t gonna pack it in out there on the road. I gave it absolutely everything I had for the last 100 km. I finished exhausted and unfortunately four minutes outside the time cut. I was gutted!â€ť
At the 41km mark, the peloton is 52" behind Lefevere. Columbia riders have taken up position at the head of the field.
With Lefevere putting his head down and attempting to increase his leading margin, the peloton appears content with who made the escape. The Frenchman is in for a long day on his own at this rate as there are numerous riders now pulling over to answer the call of nature.
Lefevere’s advantage has already jumped to 42".
Lefevere is now 30" ahead of the peloton. Finally, we can start receiving checks on who is in the escape from Radio Tour.
The rider who led over the cote de Macarou (at 36.5km) is pushing on with an attempt to escape the peloton. Laurent Lefevere of the Bouygues Telecom team is on his own at the front of the stage.
1. Laurent Lefevere (BTL) 4pts
2. David De La Fuente (SDV) 3pts
3. Yoann Le Boulanger (FDJ) 2pts
4. Sandy Casar (FDJ) 1pt
There have been a number of attacks lately including Lefevere (BTL) and Goubert (ALM). They are being chased down by De La Fuente (SDV).
On the early slopes of the cote de Macarou the escapees have been caught by the peloton.
Now there are 16 riders ahead of the peloton and closing in quickly on the cote de Macarou which is 4.2km long at an average gradient of 6.1 percent.
The 12 leaders haven’t been able to get ahead of the peloton by more than 30". Two others - including Schumacher (GST) - did bridge the gap but the former yellow jersey wearer has retreated from the lead group and now 13 are ahead of the peloton on the approach to the second climb of the stage.
We still have no names of the riders in the lead group but can report that the 11 have been chased down by one more. Simple maths: 12 in the lead.
There are now 11 riders in the lead at the 30km mark. We await confirmation of the names of those involved.
The Cofidis team is at the head of the peloton for the moment as it tries to limit the gains of nine riders who have attacked recently.
The bunch is still all together. It has covered 26km in the first half an hour of racing.
Although it’s very wet at the finish for today’s stage, the peloton is currently racing on dry roads. The pace is fast and, as yet, no escapes have been able to gain much of an advantage on the peloton.
The 10 escapees who tried their luck have not been able to gain any time on the peloton. The bunch is now at the 20km mark and still riding as one group. There have been a number of punctures - including Julian Dean (Garmin) and Marcus Burghardt (Columbia).
The pace is rapid early today and the peloton has just passed the 18km mark.
There is an escape of 10 riders who attacked in the ninth kilometer. They have a slight lead on the peloton and we await confirmation of the names of those involved.
The organisation of the Tour de France has received the confirmation from the AFLD that Manuel Beltran (nÂ°62, Team Liquigas) had been tested positive after the first stage.
They notice the decision of the Team Liquigas to exclude Manuel Beltran from the Tour de France, according to the contract signed with all the teams engaged in the Tour.
The organisation appreciate the efficiency of the system set up by the AFLD but regret that some insensible riders have not understood yet that the determination to fight against doping was total, and that the noose is tightening on the cheaters.
Gerrans and Martinez have been caught by the peloton. The bunch is racing at an extremely rapid pace early today and is currently around the 13km mark.
There are also three intermediate sprints in stage eight. They are to be contested in La Salvetat-Peyrales (57.5km), Carmeaux (85km) and Rabastens (134.5km).
Egoi Martinez and Simon Gerrans are insisting with their escape after taking points on the first climb of the stage to Toulouse.
The points for the first climb were won by:
1. David De La Fuente (SDV) 3pts
2. Simon Gerrans (C.A) 2pts
3. Egoi Martinez (EUS) 1pt
The day features four climbs in the first half of the stage â€“ the cat-4 cote de Loupiac (at 9km), the cat-3 cote de Macarou (36.5km), the cat-3 cote de la Guionie (52.5km) and the cat-3 cote du Port de la Besse (70.5km).
There are four climbs in the eighth stage. The first summit is a category-four one at Loupiac, at the nine kilometer mark. This is a 2.7km long ascent with an average gradient of six percent.
There was an attack at the very start of the stage. The seven riders involved were Will Frischkorn (TSL), Cheula (BAR) Rosseler (QST), Riblon (ALM), Terpstra (MRM), Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Auge (COF). The were caught at the four kilometer mark.
There are a number of riders attempting to gain an advantage on the peloton early in the eighth stage. For the moment, the peloton is reacting quickly to each move. The bunch is at the four kilometer mark and still all together.
Thanks to his aggressive antics in stage seven, David De La Fuente (SDV) has earned himself a day in the polka-dot jersey. He earned 24 points in the mountains classification between Brioude and Aurillac in stage seven. Adding those to the four he collected earlier in the first week, he has an advantage of just one point over the two former leaders, Sylvain Chavanel (COF) and Thomas Voeckler (BTL).
"Iâ€™m really excited because, to me, this jersey is the best,â€ť said De La Fuente. Â« I wore it for seven days in 2006 so putting it on again now makes me very happy, even if I’m wearing it only one day"
The winner of stage seven, Luis Leon Sanchez (GCE) is now ranked fourth with 24 points while the winner of stage six, Riccardo Ricco (SDV) is fifth with 20 points.
Four riders abandoned the Tour de France during stage seven - Mauro Facci (QST), John Gadret (ALM), Christophe Moreau (AGR) and Lilian Jegou (FDJ). Magnus Backstedt (TSL) finished outside the time limit.
Manuel Beltran (LIQ) is also no longer part of the race after failing a doping control in the first stage this year.
The official start of the eighth stage was at 1.11pm. There are 170 riders at the start.
Of the seven stages contested so far, Kim Kirchen has finished in the top 10 on five occasions. The reigning leader of the Tour de France is also in command of the green jersey. He has 119 points, 28 more than Oscar Freire (RAB) who will wear the green today (because Kirchen is clad in yellow).
â€śIf Iâ€™m in the front, why should I not sprint to take points for the green jersey?â€ť This was the question posed by Kirchen when journalists asked of his tactics at the end of stage seven. â€śMaybe Iâ€™m going to lose the yellow jersey so afterwards I would be happy to have the green one.â€ť
The winner of stage two, Thor Hushovd is ranked third in the points classification just one point shy of Freire while Alejandro Valverde is fourth with 87 points.
The climbs of stage seven prompted a reshuffle of the top order of the general classification but the top three remain the same with Kim Kirchen (THR) leading Cadel Evans (SIL), Stefan Schumacher (GST) and Christian Vande Velde (TSL).
The rider who was ranked fifth after six stages was David Millar of the Garmin-Chipotle team and he was one of the main aggressors at the start of a highly animated seventh stage. Mechanical woes, however, meant that his bid to escape the peloton was rendered void before just as it was beginning to gain momentum. He raced with a flat front tire for about half an hour while trying to maintain his position in an escape group. Despite suffering a setback, the Scot still managed to finish with the main pack, 33â€ť behind the winner in Aurillac, Luis Leon Sanchez. That said, Millar dropped from fifth to seventh because Denis Menchov and Alejandro Valverde finished in the front group yesterday and moved up the rankings.
The 172.5km eighth stage of the 2008 Tour de France - from Figeac to Toulouse - is scheduled to start at 1.00pm. There is a 4.8km neutral zone before the peloton reaches the site of the official start.
The weather has deteriorated and rain is pouring down at in the city hosting the finish today. It’s wet at the start as well.
Live coverage of the stage will commence shortly.