Mads Pedersen powered to victory up a punchy finish on stage eight of the Tour de France, managing to hold off green jersey Jasper Philipsen in the process.
Pedersen, the Lidl-Trek rider, now has two Tour stage wins to his name, in a finish which mixed pure sprinters and punchier riders. Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Philipsen was third, with Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in third. To prove how mixed the top ten was, however, Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) finished behind the likes of Corbin Strong (Israel-Premier Tech) and Bryan Coquard (Cofidis).
On a day which could have been one for the breakaway, the race was controlled expertly by Jumbo, Trek and Alpecin for their options, and so the escapees were never allowed much time.
The race was hectic throughout, and nerves in the bunch caused crashes, including one for Mark Cavendish, which saw the Astana-Qazaqstan sprinter abandon the race.
Another crash towards the end of the stage saw Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious) distanced, and the duo ended up losing 47 seconds on their GC riders.
We didn’t know this morning if it would be a breakaway or sprint,” Pedersen said post-stage. “But it looked like that the sprinter teams didn’t want it to be a breakaway day so we stayed calm and, man the boys did a perfect lead-out day and even with the long sprint I still had the legs to finish it off.
“I tried a few times but I realised that they wouldn’t let us go so after that I just hung on and tried to save some energy.”
“When we passed I knew I won, but oh man it was a long sprint and this uphill kick was really painful,” he continued. “I was this close to sitting down with 50 metres to go, but I think Jasper [Philipsen] had to do a pretty good sprint from behind and make it that close.
“[It was a] tough one, but it doesn’t matter if you win with two metres or one centimetre.”
How it happened
The riders rolled out of Libourne for the second-longest stage at this year’s Tour de France in baking hot conditions, with many wearing their ice-jackets until the last possible moment. Ice down the back of the neck seemed like the preferred cooling method on Saturday morning.
As the flag was dropped there were immediate attacks from Kasper Asgreen (Soudal Quick-Step), Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ), but there were soon caught. Other caught early escapees included Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies).
Other attacks kept coming, but these were shut down quickly, including a move by Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious). The day’s break did not stick until 179km to go, when Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa Samsic) and Tim Declercq (Soudal Quick-Step) created a small gap. They were soon joined by Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies).
The race to join the break had not finished yet, however, with Pedersen and Wright attempting again, as did Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost) and Michał Kwiatkowski. However, these counter moves were soon shut down.
The gap between the peloton and Delaplace, Declercq, and Turgis, stretched to almost five minutes at points, with the former winning the intermediate sprint in Tocane-Saint-Apre.
Lidl-Trek, Alpecin-Deceuninck, and Jumbo-Visma pulled on the peloton throughout the day, with the finish suiting their riders Mads Pedersen, Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert respectively.
Turgis won the King of the Mountains sprint at Côte de Champs-Romain, but Saturday’s KOM points will have little impact on the overall classification.
A crash by Mark Cavendish (Astana-Qazaqstan) with just under 62km to go meant the Manx sprinter had to abandon the race.
Kasper Asgreen attempted to go solo with 37km to go, but was soon brought back. With 30km to go the trio in front was coming down, with it standing at just 1-26. As the gap came down, Turgis went solo, but his move always seemed futile. However, as last one out, he will hope to win the most agressive rider of the day.
A crash just over the 5km to go point saw Simon Yates (Jayco AlUla) come down; a dropped chain meant he was out the back, and losing time overall. Gaps briefly appeared in the peloton, but everything came back together as the race went under the 4km to go banner.
As the peloton approached Limoges, it was very strung out, with Lidl-Trek and Alpecin-Deceuninck pulling on the front; Mattias Skjelmose, a GC rider, was pulling for Pedersen.
The final kilometre was messy, with Christophe Laporte leading it out for Wout van Aert, and Mathieu van der Poel leading it out for Jasper Philipsen. However, it was Pedersen who had the strength to lead off all the rest.