There were many scenes in the eighth stage of the 2010 Tour de France that will be remembered but the biggest talking point stems from two words – “Armstrong Dropped”. The seven-time champion lived a nightmare on the roads leading to Morzine-Avoriaz, crashing three times in the stage and eventually losing contact with his rivals for the title on the col de la Ramaz. It was 10 years ago, in Morzine that he suffered his first – and only – true crisis of his seven-year reign as champion when he when went hunger flat on the col de Joux Plane. Today he collapsed and lost 11’45” to the stage winner.
It was the confirmation of the arrival of a new generation: Andy Schleck won the stage and moved up to second overall thanks to a sensational sprint at the top of a tough mountain while Cadel Evans finished sixth in the stage and took over the lead of the general classification. Chavanel’s second reign in yellow lasted just one day but it was essentially expected. What wasn’t on the forecast was such a mighty collapse by the leader of the RadioShack team which still has Levi Leipheimer in the top nine but a new game plan will be mapped out on the rest day tomorrow.
Evans was also caught up in a crash early in the day but he replaced his world champion’s jersey with a yellow one.
The Progress Report
The eighth stage of the 2010 Tour de France, from Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz, began at 12.40pm. There were 186 riders at the start, one less than the day before as Vandenbergh (KAT) finished outside the time limit yesterday. The 189km stage featured five climbs including the first cat-1s of the 97th Tour, they were: cat-4 Petite Joux climb (24km), cat-4 cote de Gresin (73km), the cat-1 col de la Ramaz (154.5km), cat-3 Les Gets (168km) and the final ascent to Avoriaz ranked category-one (and carrying double points). The intermediate sprints were in Vulbens (84km), Viuz-en-Sallaz (129km) and Morzine (175km).
Fast Start To Establish Escape
There were several attacks early in the stage with Kiryienka (GCE) the first to gain any advantage. He was 10” ahead at the 6km mark when there was a crash at the front of the peloton involving, amongst others, Evans (BMC), Pineau (QST), Kreuziger (LIQ) who all remounted the bike but needed medical attention after they rejoined the peloton. Armstrong (RSH) had to go off the road to avoid crashing. There were several counter-attackers after the crash but Popovych (RSH) policed the escapees and chastised those who insisted on attacking after the crash. Shortly after Kiryienka returned to the bunch.
At 28km, Aerts (OLO) prompted a few others to follow him in an attack. He was joined by Riblon (ALM), Erviti (GCE), Moerenhout (RAB) and two Cofidis riders – Moinard and Minard and by 39km they were 2’15” ahead. The average speed for the first hour was the fastest so far this year: 50.8km/h. Quickstep assumed its position at the head of the peloton and no other team contributed to the pacesetting for two hours. The advantage grow steadily, 5’40” at 88km, 6’35” at 95km, 7’00” at 110km – this was the maximum gain.
Armstrong Dropped On Col de la Ramaz
On the approach to the col de la Ramaz, the Rabobank and BMC teams started moving to the front of the peloton. The escapees were ahead by 6’15”. At 133km, Armstrong was involved in a crash. He quickly remounted his bike and was helped back to the peloton by four team-mates. Garmin was at the front of the bunch at the moment of the crash. At the base of the climb, the peloton was 4’35” behind the escapees.
With 4.8km to climb on the first category-one ascent of the 2010 race, Armstrong was dropped by his rivals. At the top of the Ramaz, a peloton of 30 riders – including Contador (and three team-mates), Evans, Schleck, Basso, Wiggins, Sastre and other title favorites – was 2’05” behind. Armstrong was at 3’15” and the yellow jersey at 4’45”.
Just before the Les Gets summit, two Euskaltel-Euskadi riders were involved in a crash just ahead of Armstrong who had nowhere to go but into the back of them – he didn’t fall to the ground but it was the third accident of the stage for the American.
Evans Into The Yellow Jersey
The leading trio had 1’15” at the base of the final climb. Moerenhout was the first drop from the lead, then Aerts… and eventually Moinard was caught just before the 5km to go mark. A group of 15 formed at the front of the stage and rode together with Navarro setting the pace for Contador most of the way up the final climb. With 3.5km to go, Wiggins dropped out of the lead group and this prompted a volley of attacks: first from Gesink, then Kreuziger… but it wasn’t until the final 700m that a rider could break free and it was an inspired Schleck who was so fast that only Sanchez could follow. Those two raced to the line in the quest for stage honors and the Luxembourger sprinted into the lead in the dying meters of the stage to win his first Tour de France state.
Cadel Evans finished sixth in the stage, 10” behind the stage winner and he took the lead of the general classification on the eve of the first rest day, just as he did in 2008. This time, however, his lead is 20” over Andy Schleck whereas in 2008 he was in yellow just one second ahead of Frank Schleck.
The only rider to have led the climbing classification in the 2010 Tour crashed inside the first 10km. Then he punctured. And so began a most forgettable day for Jérôme Pineau.
“It is a day did not start the best way, since I went down after less than 15km of racing, while we were speeding along at 60 km/h. I smashed my elbow, buttock, and I have an especially sore neck. I initially spent a lot of time to regain my place in the peloton, especially since I have been slowed by a puncture.
“The good news of the day is that I kept the polka-dot jersey. But I do not see how I could keep it to Paris, or so I’d have to switch back to a day ahead in the mountains. It is not certain that I can find the opportunity.”
After seven stages Andy Schleck was back in the white jersey but he is now being asked when he’ll have the yellow one. He laughed but didn’t deny that he would… ‘Ah, the Pyrenees’ was his considered response. He’s now a Tour de France stage winner but he believes he can be a Tour de France champion.
“I take some really good morale from knowing that I could attack and not have Contador follow me. Maybe he takes it the other way but I’m happy. For me it’s a fantastic stage win – everything worked out to be perfect. It’s hard but the team can have confidence in me and I promise to them that I’ll fight until Paris – I’ll fight until I fall off my bike.
“I hope you’ll see me in the yellow jersey as soon as possible but I predict… ah, the Pyrenees.
“It’s been a really good day but I admit: I miss my brother when I’m riding up there at the front of the peloton and I’m suffering and hurting. I wasn’t suffering too badly today. I feel really good. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, I have the best shape of my life. I showed at the end that I have some punch. I have good power now and I have to remind myself, ‘Don’t be stupid and stuff it up’. I have to try and get the maximum out of myself and get the yellow jersey.
“It’s step-by-step. I’m happy with the stage win. I’ll enjoy that tonight. Tomorrow is a rest day and then we will go for our next target. It’s a long way to Paris and I know I can’t follow wheels like I did today if I want to win this Tour. I have to get more active and get time out of my rivals. I’m ready for that.”
Two years ago Cadel Evans crashed on the first stage in the mountains but he came back and raced into the yellow jersey at Hautacam. In stage eight, he again proved that he is not only consistent, but he’s strong enough to lead the Tour de France… again!
"I can’t quite believe it just yet. The cameras probably didn’t catch the crash in the first kilometers. I hit the ground pretty hard but fortunately I took all the impact on my arm and not on my legs but it make it a hard day even harder.
“In the end, Schleck went away but I had to conserve a little bit. It wasn’t an easy stage and the wind made it difficult to judge in the final but at this point I’m in a great position. I’ve got an advantage over Contador and when you look at our history that’s a good thing to have.
“When Armstrong is dropped, Contador wants to put him as far out of the classification as possible and the way Astana rode put us in a really good position. That’s why we prepared so carefully for the day on the cobbles because it allowed me to put time into Contador – and we’ve got to do that whenever we can. He’s been saving his team for the climbs in the Pyrenees they’ll sink the boots in a little further.
“I have a little bit of a barrier over Andy Schleck but we’ll see what happens. I’ve got to have a bit of time to consider everything.
“It’s a bit of a rare honor to have in cycling – to swap the rainbow jersey for the yellow one – but I want to say a big thank you to everyone who has believed in me, not only this year at the BMC team but over all the years, since I was 14 years old and started racing mountain bikes. There are so many people who have helped me along the way. This is one of the rewards we sometimes get and there are more – better – things yet to come.
“Steve Morabito rode really well. He knows the area because he lives here and, like he showed in the Tour de Suisse, he’s coming into some good form. It’s going really well with everyone in the team – all the mechanics, soigneurs, the other riders – it’s been a pleasure to work with them. Everywhere along the way they’ve looked after me and, here we are – leading the Tour de France.”
Cadel Evans has taken the yellow jersey after stage eight. The new top five in the general classification is: 1. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC 2. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX at 20" 3. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST at 1’01" 4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) OLO at 1’03" 5. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB at 1’10"
The runner-up from last year, Andy Schleck has won his first Tour de France stage. The top 10 of stage eight is: 1. Andy Schleck (LUX) SAX - 189km in 4h54’11" 2. Samuel Sanchez (ESP) EUS at same time 3. Robert Gesink (NED) RAB at 10" 4. Roman Kreuziger (CZE) LIQ at 10" 5. Alberto Contador (ESP) AST at 10" 6. Cadel Evans (AUS) BMC at 10" 7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL) OLO at 10" 8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) RSH at 10" 9. Ivan Basso (ITA) LIQ at 10" 10. Denis Menchov (RUS) RAB at 10"
Cadel Evans has taken the yellow jersey for the second time in his career. He led the general classification for five days in 2008 but his advantage this year is going to be a lot more than the one-second gain he had on Frank Schleck two years ago...
The best young rider is the winner of the stage. He has taken his first stage win in the Tour de France by outsprinting Samuel Sanchez at Morzine-Avorias.
Sanchez and Schleck are going to contest the sprint for stage honors. The Spaniard leads out the Luxembourger...