Stage 8 sends the peloton on an 187.5km through the first barrage of Alpine climbs during this year’s Tour de France, starting in Dole and finishing atop Station des Rousses. The battle to make the day’s breakaway is expected to be a fierce one, as the bunch are likely to be happy allowing a large move to vanish up the road and decide the day’s outcome. The first recognised ascent of the day is the Category 3 Col de la Joux, lasting 6.1km with an average gradient of 4.7% and providing a chance to loosen the legs ahead of what lies ahead. A relatively long descent follows, leading to the base of the Category 2 Côte de Viry, 7.6km and with an average of 5.2%. Th terrain remains lumpy for a time after this, before dropping down once again and beginning the ascent to the final run into Station des Rousses. The Category 1 Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes is the springboard towards the day’s finish, an 11.7km rise which sustains a draining incline between 6% – 8%, though softens after the summit into rolling terrain all the way to the finish.
Diego Ulissi has always had a gift for making the cut for stages where his great turn of pace is capable of burying the majority of the peloton in a reduced sprint to the line. The Italian has stayed safe enough this far and will be fresh to battle it out amongst a highly competitive selection process to make the day’s breakaway. Typically speaking, Stage 8 is well within his capabilities to succeed upon, though it may come too early in the three week grand tour in order for him to really take it by the scruff of the neck. Regardless, if he does make the move early on, then it will be unlikely anyone faster than him will also be present amongst the escapees.
Stephen Cummings took a double win at the British Road Championships recently, arriving at Le Tour de France in unexpectedly strong form after recovering from a series of broken bones suffered earlier this year. The terrain lends itself perfectly to Cummings’ attributes and especially his gift for sustaining a high tempo throughout these rolling days which slowly jettison members of the breakaway late on. The final climb is bound to entice him to attack over the summit, before then settling into a time trial approach, soloing his way to the line in order to secure the stage win.
Nicolas Edet is partial to joining the break on stages which finish uphill, so will no doubt be interested to see how the opening kilometres unfold, potentially seizing upon the chance to smuggle himself within a move. A strong climber, Edet knows that a convincing performance here has the potential to deliver him more than a stage victory, as the yellow jersey itself is only just a little over four minutes beyond his reach.
Rigoberto Uran will be fully aware of how close he is to securing the maillot jaune right now, as a bold move to join the day’s breakaway would only need him to finish more than a minute ahead of Chris Froome in order to step into the leader’s jersey. It seems that Team Sky are willing to relinquish their grip and see another team shoulder the burden of protecting its prestigious status. Uran might struggle to find the freedom to escape from the start, so if the day proves harder than expected, he might be given permission to try and catch his rivals napping on the final ascent.
Daniel Martin should be the man to beat if the day is determined by an elite group of big name riders, though the general classification focused teams are unlikely to want the task of chasing the breakaway down with such a testing day awaiting them on Sunday. Regardless, the Irishman is clearly enjoying some brilliant form currently and would be bitterly disappointed to see it go to waste if crossing the line in Paris without a stage win to his name.
Serge Pauwels may fancy a day in the break on Stage 8, as Team Dimension-Data turn their attention away from the sprint stages to the mountains for the first time at this year’s tour. The Belgian rider has a strong record for performing well in breaks at major races, though often comes unstuck due to his lack of speed in a head to head charge for the line; something which may deter him from chancing his arm on the road to Station de Rousses. A strong climber, he will look to simply ride his rivals off his wheel during the final ascent of Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.
Pierre Latour will need to come to terms with being the greatest hope of a French tour winner in the foreseeable future, so a stage victory and the likelihood of taking the maillot jaune would only serve to apply even greater pressure. The terrain does play to his strengths reasonably well, though may not be tough enough to truly lure him out to join the moves on Stage 8. He sits less than 70 seconds back on Chris Froome at the moment, which could prove a great temptation to try a swashbuckling move late in the day if everything comes back together on Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.
Gianluca Brambilla should be in the minds of many for stage honours, despite not showing a great deal of form to catch the eye during the season thus form. He possesses a potent blend of climbing skill and sprinting talent, lending himself perfectly to the rigours of Stage 8 today. Should he manage to be part of a race winning move, few will wish to work him in order to arrive at Station des Rousses with the Italian firmly placed upon their wheel.
Others to watch out for include Fabio Felline, Alessandro De Marchi, Warren Barguil and Alexis Vuillermoz.
1st Pierre Latour 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Gianluca Brambilla