Alexis Vuillermoz attacked on the steepest part of the Mur de Bretagne and had enough energy to kick again in the final couple of hundred metres to distance the race leader and sail solo across the line, recording his team’s and France’s first stage win in this Tour, five seconds ahead of Dan Martin.
Rider of the day
It’s stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz who, crucially for the French, won with much panache, showing clean heels to the leading contenders as he led the charge up the Mur de Bretagne, only to switch into top gear and sail clear in the last hundred metres or so. Third on stage three’s finish atop the Mur de Huy, he didn’t figure in any of the commentators’ predictions on Eurosport. They really do need that crystal ball. Didn’t Mystic Meg have one? Whatever happened to her?
The slightly built, 27-year-old former mountain biker was out of work when ProContinental outfit Sojasun folded at the end of 2013. He joined Ag2r La Mondiale in 2014 only when a personal sponsor offered to pay his salary. He took his first professional win last year with a stage in the Tour de Gevaudan, followed this year by victory in GP Plumelec-Morbihan, held just down the road from today’s stage. This is his first WorldTour and grand tour victory. Coincidentally, Ag2r also won stage eight last year with Blel Kadri.
“Après la ligne d’arrivée je me suis effondré”. Effectivement… #TDF2015@letour (photo via @a_thomas_comm)
— Julie Dremière (@ju_drem) 11 Juillet 2015
When he’d regained his composure, Pikachu, as he’s affectionately known, explained:
I was third on the Mur de Huy, that was obviously amazing. So today I wanted to try and do something special. I tried two or three times to go, and finally on the third attempt it worked. I knew someone was behind me, but I just put my head down and pedaled for all I was worth. I’m only now just realising I’ve won the stage.
Four things we noticed
1. Sagan into green. Best young rider and currently second overall, Peter Sagan kept pace with the pack of contenders after most of the sprinters had been distanced to finish an exhausted fourth and take the green jersey by three points. I don’t expect him to relinquish it before Paris. If he’d managed to take the yellow jersey as well, he’d have become the first rider to wear all three! Ah, well, there’s always tomorrow. Last year, Sagan became increasingly frustrated as he failed time and time again to win a stage. This year, he’s much more relaxed and taking each day as it comes. Two out of four jerseys isn’t too bad a haul as he heads towards an inevitable fourth consecutive green jersey – #4Peter.
.@petosagan :”aujourd’hui en vert, demain peut être en jaune / today in green, tomorrow maybe in yellow” @Eurosport
— Le Tour de France (@letour) 11 Juillet 2015
2. Defending champion is distanced. As the leading pack headed up the final assault, the Italian national jersey of defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) was noticeably adrift and isolated. He only lost ten seconds but those may come back to haunt him. Of course, he could just have been keeping his powder dry for tomorrow’s all-important team time trial.
3. Bretons love their cycling. The roads were lined with enthusiastic spectators, many waving the distinctive black-and-white Breton flag, the Gwen-ha-du. It was perfect picnic (and riding) weather and no one loves a picnic more than the French. There were many references to Brittany being the heartland of French cycling and it’s true that at one time there were in excess of 1,500 races in the region.
4. France’s glorious heritage. Those who watch the Tour for its scenery will have been delighted by the shots of numerous honey-stoned chateaux with their beautifully manicured gardens and hundreds of windows glinting in the sunshine. A good place to run a window-cleaning business! The peloton traversed three of Brittany’s departments which have 76 chateaux, many of which are classified as historic monuments. There’s over 60 more in the other two departments.
Stage 8 result
1. Alexiz Vuillermoz (Ag2r La Mondiale) 4:20:55
2. Dan Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) +0:05
3. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) +0:10
4. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) same time
5. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) s/t
1. Chris Froome (Sky) 31:01:56
2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:11
3. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:13
4. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:26
5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:28
6. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:34
7. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:36
8. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) +1:07
9. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +1:15
10. Bauke Mollema (Trek) +1:32
Points leader: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
King of the Mountains leader: Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka).
Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Team classification: BMC.
Link: Official race website
Header image: Alexis Vuillermoz crosses the line (Tour de France)