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Photo ©: Schaaf

95th Tour de France - GT

France, July 5-27, 2008

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Stage 8 - Saturday, July 12: Figeac - Toulouse, 172.5km

Complete live report

Live commentary by Hedwig Kröner

12:55 CEST   
Bienvenu de retour sur le Tour de France! Welcome back to the Tour, today transiting from the Massif Central down to the foot of the Pyrenees, where GC action is sure to unfold in the coming days. Stage eight to Toulouse is the last chance for the sprinters' teams to get a stage win - the next opportunity being stage 12 to Narbonne on Thursday next week. Still, the first part of the day's course is pretty bumpy with four categorized climbs to master: the Côte de Loupiac (Cat. 4, km 9), the Côte de Macarou (Cat. 3, km 36.5), the Côte de la Guionie (Cat.4, km 52.5) and the Côte du Port de la Besse (Cat. 3, km 70.5).

After that, the run down to Toulouse is mostly flat, except for two small hills within the last 25 kilometres. If a breakaway forms in the early part of the stage, a motivated bunch could reel it back in - depending on how fresh the sprinters feel at this point. But the tiny bumps on the parcours' finale could also serve as a start ramp for powerful finisseurs... We will know more in a few hours!

13:04 CEST   
At the moment, the stage hasn't started yet. The riders are currently rolling through the beautiful town of Figeac. They will get the official start shot at 13.10pm to set out on their 172.5km-long journey.

13:06 CEST   
It is not very warm at the stage start today, only 16° Celsius, with a mild 15 km/h breeze coming from the West. The riders will therefore have light crosswind coming from the right hand side as they'll ride down South.

13:14 CEST   
And the start flag has been waved out of the race director's car. The riders are off for the eighth day of tough racing at the Tour de France! Chapeau to all of them who have made it through so far. There are still 170 riders in the race.

13:23 CEST   
There was an attack right away after the start. Seven riders tried to get a gap: Will Frischkorn (Garmin), Cheula (Barloworld), Sébastien Rosseler (Quick Step), Christophe Riblon (AG2R), Niki Terpstra (Milram), Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Stéphane Augé (Cofidis). They were caught at the four kilometre mark.

13:26 CEST   
Yesterday's stage counted the most losses as four riders did not see the finish due to health problems: Mauro Facci (Quick Step), John Gadret (AG2R), Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) and Lilian Jégou (FDJ). Moreover, Magnus Backstedt (Garmin-Chipotle) finished outside the time limit.

Last but not least, Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) is also no longer part of the race after failing a doping control for EPO in the first stage this year. It is very annoying to hear this news about the former domestique of Lance Armstrong. We thought that maybe we would be spared from having to report any doping news this time at the Tour, but it seems not so.

13:29 CEST   
David De La Fuente is continuing his raid for his polka dot jersey. The Spanish Saunier Duval rider took all the points at the first KOM, ahead of Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) and Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel).

De La Fuente sat up after his effort, but Gerrans and Martinez are currently still off the front.

13:31 CEST    14km/158.5km to go
But the pair didn't get far. The pace is high at the moment and the two of them were quickly caught again.

13:37 CEST   
We have another breakaway attempt by some ten riders, but race radio hasn't given us the names of those involved yet. We're trying to find out as quickly as possible.

13:38 CEST    18km/154.5km to go
Wasn't worthwhile... the bunch reeled them in again. The pace is still incredibly high.

13:42 CEST   
There have been a number of punctures - including Julian Dean (Garmin) and Marcus Burghardt (Columbia). But the bunch is still together and racing fast.

13:46 CEST   
It slipped by a bit unnoticed for many, but there are no time bonuses this year in the Tour de France. Which made it necessary to sometimes use the stage ranking to determine who will be ahead. That was similar to how the polka dot jersey was awarded in stage one. Both Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom) and Björn Schröder (Team Milram) had eight points, but the Frenchman Voeckler took the lead by placing 126th. Schröder ended the day in 129th position...

13:47 CEST   
The bunch is still all together. It has covered 26 kilometres in the first 30 minutes of racing.

13:51 CEST   
Another 12 riders have attacked. Obviously without a Cofidis rider as the French team is in pursuit.

13:53 CEST    33km/139.5km to go
Riders are bridging up to the escapists. It seems there are now 14 riders in the lead. We'll give you their names once we have them!

13:56 CEST    34km/138.5km to go
The group now has an advantage of 30 seconds over the bunch. One of the riders to bridge up to them was Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)! But he realized he was destroying the break's chances by his presence and let go of the lead group. Now, 13 riders are ahead of the peloton on the approach to the second climb of the stage, the Côte de Macarou (Cat. 3, km 36.5).

13:59 CEST   
But it was no use. The break was caught... It will be a demanding stage for the bunch if it goes on like this.

14:05 CEST    39km/133.5km to go
Another attack goes on the climb. Laurent Lefevere (Bouygues) jumped away, while three others including polka dot jersey de La Fuente are in pursuit. Lefèvre took the points at the summit, with De La Fuente second. Two FDJ riders, Yoann Le Boulanger and Sandy Casar were third and fourth at the summit.

14:06 CEST   
Lefèvre continues his breakaway attempt alone. He has some 30 seconds over the bunch.

14:08 CEST   
Lefèvre is able to extend his lead. But he is still all alone out there...

14:11 CEST   
The poor Frenchman is given the okay by the bunch. But does anybody care to join him so that he doesn't have to do this by himself?

14:13 CEST    45km/127.5km to go
It looks like this is it. Lefèvre has a 1'45 gap and the Columbia riders have taken their front positions in the bunch, controlling the pace.

14:18 CEST   
Ah! Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel) is trying to bridge up to the Frenchman now. But the Spaniard is being marked by one of Lefèvre’s team-mates, Jérôme Pineau. We wonder... wouldn't Lefèvre be better of with some company? He doesn't have any mountain points on his counter yet, either. Neither does Txurruka.

14:18 CEST   
Christophe Riblon of AG2R countered and has now caught Txurruka and Pineau. They are in pursuit of Lefèvre who had a lead of 1'30 at the last check.

14:23 CEST    52km/120.5km to go
The three are working together now to catch Lefèvre, who will be happy to have a team-mate up there with him.

14:25 CEST   
The average speed for the first hour was 45.6km/h. Now, the pace eases up a bit, with Lefèvre already more than three minutes in front of the bunch. The chase group of three is at 1'30 between them.

14:28 CEST   
The riders crossed the third categorized climb of today, the Côte de la Guionie (Cat. 4, km 52.5). Lefèvre of course took all the points, followed by Txurruka and Riblon.

14:33 CEST   
Columbia's Marcus Burghardt leads the pack out. Fabian Cancellara (CSC) gets a rear wheel change as he flatted. The weather has deteriorated with some rain coming down now. The riders all have long sleeves and their rain jackets.

14:35 CEST    62.5km/110km to go
The double TT world champ is chasing back within the director's car caravan now. No worries about him!

Lefèvre now leads the bunch by 5 minutes.

14:36 CEST   
But the chasing trio is still 1'30 behind the lone leader. For some kilometres now, that gap has been unchanged.

14:40 CEST   
Columbia is starting to put some pressure again on the pedals. They don't want to give the break too much of a margin.

Riblon slipped on one of the white marks in the middle of the road, but stayed upright. More adrenaline!

14:42 CEST   
Lefèvre is on the last categorized climb for today, the Côte du Port de la Besse (Cat. 3, km 70.5). He gets a bottle of water from the neutral motorbike, the "moto fraicheur" - the "freshness moto".

14:42 CEST   
It's stopped raining, but the road is still wet.

14:44 CEST   
Apparently, Lefèvre is not aware that there's a team-mate bridging up to him. The Bouygues rider doesn't have a radio connection with his team car. The car of the second directeur sportif still needs to come up to his side and tell him.

The current race situation is:

  • Laurent Lefèvre (Bouygues Telecom)
  • Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel), Jérôme Pineau (Bouygues Telecom), Christophe Riblon (AG2R) at 1.30
  • Peloton at 4.45

14:52 CEST   
Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) just punctured, as well as Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and now George Hincapie (Columbia), too!

14:53 CEST    74.5km/98km to go
The gap between the leader and the bunch has grown again to 5'17.

14:56 CEST   
The Bouygues Telecom car is now at Lefèvre's side, his DS talking to him. The Frenchman has an earpiece, but it mustn't have worked.

14:58 CEST   
The points at the summit of the climb were taken by Lefèvre, followed at 1'40 minutes by Txurruka, Pineau and Riblon in that order.

It's started raining again... Mark Cavendish (Columbia) also punctured but is back inside the bunch now.

15:00 CEST   
Cadel Evans had some predictions for Cyclingnews' Gregor Brown this morning in Figeac. "It was an intense stage [yesterday]. We have all the ingredients to have the same today. It will be quite dangerous and nervous."

15:03 CEST   
Evans' team-mate Yaroslav Popovych recapped stage 7 for Gregor Brown. "Yesterday was quite hard from the start. As you saw everybody was ahead, but when Cunego crashed, the race started to [become] very hard. I don't agree if they knew that Cunego crashed when they started to pull hard."

For the Silence-Lotto team, everything was fine. "We are very calm. Evans was in the front group. I was just following Lampre as they pulled the groups back together."

For today, the Ukrainian had some advise for his rivals. "If Columbia is smart they will allow a break to go. After yesterday, we are all very tired and we have a few hard days to come."

Well, this is what happened, but the first hour of racing was tough, and now, the weather doesn't make this stage particularly enjoyable, either.

15:04 CEST    81.5km/91km to go
The chasing trio is now within eyesight of Lefèvre, who eased up a bit. Only 30 seconds between them now.

15:09 CEST    83.5km/89km to go
That's it, they are four riders in front now. The bunch is just over five minutes behind.

15:12 CEST   
AG2R's Riblon crossed the intermediate sprint line in first position, bit there was no sprint contested. The four will now get organised for the second part of the race, hoping to take their advantage to the finish.

But Team Columbia will have its say with regards to that one... the gap is already shrinking to 4'25 now.

15:15 CEST   
By the way, Cyclingnews Tech editor James Huang was airdropped into France yesterday, so expect some excellent reviews of Tour de France bikes, parts and accessories soon to come!

15:19 CEST   
Bah. It's wet out there. It's not raining at the moment, but puddles are left on the road and the riders are definitely better off leaving their rain coats on.

Still, the masses are out there to cheer the riders on. Umbrella or not.

The four escapists are passing through the feed zone in Blaye-Les-Mines and get some food.

15:21 CEST    91.5km/81km to go
The gap is stable around 4'30 at the moment.

15:25 CEST   
The bunch gets their food bags now. They ride really slow to avoid any crashes on the slippery road. Munching away now, musettes flying...

15:30 CEST    97.5km/75km to go
The gap increased a little due to the lunch break. But we're sure it'll come down again soon, as Columbia riders are still putting on the pace at the front of the bunch. They will protect their yellow jersey today, as well as being interested in a bunch sprint finish for Mark Cavendish.

15:35 CEST   
Bjarne Riis also talked to Cyclingnews at the start today. "It was an excellent first week for us. Everybody expected a lot from Fabian [Cancellara] in the time trial. But it doesn't matter now. We are here today!

"Yesterday was a good day, even if we missed three guys in the front group. It was the moment to go to the front and ride and put some pressure on the peloton."

Riis answered to the voiced criticism by some about taking advantage of Cunego's crash. "The attack had nothing to do with Cunego's crash. We did not go to the front because of that. That was Columbia. We just followed them. Jens [Voigt] was in the break. When he was caught, I looked at the situation."

Riis was relaxed about today. "We expect a calm day, nothing crazy. Tomorrow and the next day will be hard."

15:39 CEST    103.5km/69km to go
After having passed the green forest hills of the Aveyron département, the riders are now in the region of the Tarn. Still, some villages throne on hilltops, but it should soon get flatter on the way to Toulouse.

The break is working well together. The gap is still up to 5'20.

15:42 CEST   
Bernhard Eisel is taking a looong turn at the front as they pass through the French countryside, wheat and sunflower fields on each side. Unfortunately, the sky is grey!

15:44 CEST   
Riblon has a problem with his back wheel. He takes it off himself as his mechanic rushes up to him. He's back on his bike now, while the mechanic just arranges his brakes out of the team car.

15:45 CEST   
The bunch is sitting up as many riders stop to water the flowers...

15:51 CEST   
Riblon is back with his breakaway companions. French TV reports that he had a tubular on his back wheel, with which he felt uncomfortable on the slippery descents. He now changed for a clincher.

15:57 CEST    115.5km/57km to go
Team Columbia now gets some assistance from Crédit Agricole in the chase. Three team-mates of Thor Hushovd have started to bring down the gap again to under five minutes. They'd better, if they don't want to miss out on their chances today!

Simon Gerrans takes a turn now in front of George Hincapie.

16:00 CEST   
The Chateau de Mauriac is close by the route. It was built in the 13th century and entirely restored. It peaks over a vineyard...

16:01 CEST   
The gap is coming down fast now as the leaders pass through Gaillac. Only four minutes with 54 kms to go. Rabobank joined the chase.

16:06 CEST   
We also spot a Liquigas rider at the front of the bunch now. Sure working towards a bunch sprint. Another chance for Mark Cavendish? Or will Robbie McEwen have his say this time? What about Oscar Freire and Erik Zabel? Thor Hushovd?

16:08 CEST    121.5km/51km to go
Crash in the back of the bunch! Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) went down, so did Jens Voigt (CSC) and a Columbia rider, we believe it is Ciolek.

All are up and riding again, though. Ricco complains of pain in his right hip and holds on to his team car.

16:10 CEST   
Ricco chases back to the peloton now, getting out of the saddle. A team-mate waits for him. It's Bertogliati.

16:11 CEST   
The leader's advantage has shrunk to 2'20 with 47 kilometres to the finish. The bunch is strung out. Ricco grimaces in pain.

16:14 CEST   
It seems the bunch will reel in the break faster than expected!! Ricco chases at 1'16 behind the bunch, led out by Crédit Agricole. Saunier Duval sends more team-mates to the "Cobra"'s rescue.

16:16 CEST   
Ricco has three team-mates with him now. They are 45 seconds back of the bunch, which is less than a minute behind the leaders.

They're not waiting for Ricco... he's not very popular within the peloton.

16:18 CEST    129.5km/43km to go
The Group around Ricco is in the team car caravan now. They'll make it back. But Ricco is slightly injured...

16:21 CEST   
The pace eases up a bit now as the bunch is within one minute of the leaders. They'll hold it there for a while if they're wise, as there are two hills yet to come before Toulouse - one around 20 kilometres before the line, and another one about 12 clicks away from the finish.

16:30 CEST    136.5km/36km to go
We're afraid we have to announce that it's still pretty wet out there, with intermittent rain showers coming down on the riders. The chances of the leaders to make it to the finish look pretty slim now, as the bunch is set to make it a sprint today.

16:32 CEST    139.5km/33km to go
Ricco is beside the race doctor's car as the first counter-attacks go off the front of the pack. It's Stéphane Augé (Cofidis) and Freddy Bichot (Agritubel) who try to get away.

16:36 CEST    142.5km/30km to go
Terpstra is the next to go, after Augé and Bichot have been caught.

16:40 CEST    146.5km/26km to go
They will soon hit the first of the two small climbs left before the finish. The bunch is allowing the break some more seconds, while Terpstra is struggling in between.

The wind seems to have picked up a bit, too.

16:41 CEST   
Ricco seems to be in pain. He holds on bravely, though. Liquigas controls the pace now. The leaders have 45 seconds, with Terpstra 18 seconds back.

16:42 CEST   
They ride on a long, straight road. Terpstra sits up and gets swallowed by the bunch. Nice try.

16:44 CEST   
Simon Gerrans (Crédit Agricole) is back at the front of the pack, followed by a team-mate and five Liquigas riders.

The break hits the climb now.

16:46 CEST   
Riders get out of the saddle as the road rises. But the pace is still high enough to prevent any further counter-attacks. If only it could be a little less wet!

16:48 CEST   
The climb's definitely rolling, not much of a difficulty at all. Two Milram riders now also come up to help Liquigas and Columbia in the chase.

16:50 CEST    152.5km/20km to go
The Bouygues riders in the front are still working away. the wind and light drizzle don't make this any more enjoyable. 40 seconds left between the two groups.

16:52 CEST   
Leonard Duque of Cofidis had a mechanical. He got a new front wheel from a team-mate and now chases back.

16:53 CEST   
Robbie McEwen complained about the route to Cyclingnews' John Trevorrow before the stage. "This has been the most sprinter-unfriendly Tour I've ridden. It's the 11th one and I've never done a Tour where we've had so few sprints. We're already up into the middle mountains and we've only had one stage the sprinters have been able to take out. We can only hope that we sprinters get a couple more chances ... like today, for instance. On paper it looks like it gets through the early hills and it should be a sprint finish. But that's not likely to happen. If it's anything like the Tour's been so far it'll be on from the get go and with the first 100km being really hard.

"Actually, there'll be breakaways for sure and as soon as one gets up the road, with the right mix if it doesn't include a GC contender, then I reckon it'll stay away – unless teams like Gerolsteiner, Quick Step and Crédit Agricole are prepared to pull them back. And even then, there are a couple of climbs right near the end that are unclassified but are actually quite hard."

16:55 CEST   
The next climb looks a bit steeper on paper. The gap is still 48 seconds, while Liquigas does the most of the work in the peloton. It's getting strung out now!

16:58 CEST    158.5km/14km to go
Some riders fall off the back of the bunch, as the chase is on... In the front, Txurruka and Pineau try to jump away as they hit the last climb before the finish.

17:00 CEST   
This hurts, after so many kilometres in front under such uncomfortable weather conditions. But Pineau and Txurruka manage to get away.

17:01 CEST   
Columbia's Alan Peiper gave John Trevorrow insight on the pre-race tactics. "For us it's going to be important to keep the race under control. That doesn't mean to take control of the race. We won't mind a group getting away as long as it's got the right mix and we'll just keep it within reason. It's then going to be up to the sprinters' teams to take control in the last part if they want to win a stage."

Peiper was not concerned so much about Columbia contesting the sprint. "Even though we've got two in-house sprinters we've already won our stage and we've got yellow so it's really up to the others. The most important thing for us is to keep the yellow jersey."

17:03 CEST    162.5km/10km to go
Liquigas is still trying hard to come back, but the gap has been stable around 43 seconds for a while now. Will it really come down to a sprint? Riblon and Lefèvre are caught.

17:04 CEST   
Columbia and Quick Step take over for Liquigas. Maybe that'll help.

17:06 CEST    164.5km/8km to go
Pineau and Txurruka are giving it their all. The wet roads make it a risky business here in Toulouse today. Let's hope everybody makes it safe into the finish.

17:07 CEST    165.5km/7km to go
30 seconds left for the leaders. Crédit Agricole gives it a dig, with Milram participating, too.

17:08 CEST   
Things look tough, with riders trying to get into position and taking a lot of risks. The road is still very wet with puddles.

17:09 CEST    167.5km/5km to go
Less than 15 seconds with 5 kilometres to go. Big roundabouts divide the bunch.

17:10 CEST   
The lead duo is almost caught. They don't sit up, though!

17:11 CEST    168.5km/4km to go
That's it - the break is over. Rain is pouring down. What a pace the bunch is putting on now!

17:12 CEST   
Columbia leads out. Lövkvist works for Cavendish.

17:13 CEST   
Zabel sits in seventh position or so. Other riders come up from the sides. McEwen!

17:14 CEST   
Quick Step's Rosseler takes over in front. Freire is on the left, in fifth position. They pass the flamme rouge.

17:14 CEST   
Casper is in third, Freire in fourth position. Steegmans leads, Freire in his wheel.

17:15 CEST   
Cavendish comes up from the left with a team-mate - Ciolek? And Cav takes it!!

17:15 CEST   
Yes, it's Ciolek taking second. Freire fourth.

17:21 CEST   
What a finish. Fortunately there were no crashes. Columbia took another great victory, with McEwen losing out again. It seems too fast for the Australian as the Columbia train performs really well.

17:25 CEST   
Thanks for having joined us again today, and we sure hope to have you back with us tomorrow, when the GC riders will be center-stage. Until then, revoir et bonnie soiree!

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