Blel Kadri was the sole survivor of an early flight during the 2014 Tour de France's Stage 8, finishing solo at the ski station of La Mauselaine and grabbing hold of the polka-dot jersey in the process.
The Frenchman attacked from the leading group on the first climb of the day and never looked back, taking advantage of a lackluster day from the peloton.
|4||Richie Porte||Team Sky||+2:24|
|6||Jean Christophe Peraud||AG2R||+2:28|
|8||Tejay van Garderen||BMC||+2:40|
|10||Sylvain Chavanel||I AM Cycling||+2:54|
Saturday's stage was the first real day in the mountains, with three steep climbs in the final hour of racing. The first week of the 2014 Tour was a rough one, and the peloton was widely expected to take it easy upon arrival at the Vosges.
This opened the door for an early flight, and the duo of Sylvain Chavanel and Niki Terpstra showed little patience, attacking in the first 25 kilometers of the race. Adrien Petit, Simon Yates and Kadri soon joined them, and the five riders quickly found each other, opening a huge gap on the peloton.
Leaderboard contender Jurgen Van Den Broeck lost one of his main helpers early, as Bart De Clercq was forced to retire from the race, still suffering from injuries he sustained in the stage toward Lille, as shared by Lotto Belisol:
#TDF Bart De Clercq leaves the race because of an ankle injury after his crash in the 4th stage. Speed recovery Bart!— Lotto Belisol (@Lotto_Belisol) July 12, 2014
Kadri clearly had his mind set on the polka-dot jersey, and it became clear early on in the race he wasn't going to see much resistance from the peloton. The lead kept growing for the five riders, and it looked like the stage winner would be part of the leading group, via Le Tour de France:
The five leaders encountered thunderstorms as they got closer to the Vosges and were warned by event organisers the roads could become very slippery in the descends, adding yet another element of surprise to Saturday's finale.
Chavanel placed an attack early on the Col de la Croix des Moinats, the first of three climbs, but mountain-leader Kadri easily followed in his wake. Yates attempted to close the gap but was caught by an attack from Kadri, who decided to approach the finale solo.
The top contenders started battling in the peloton, with Alberto Contador looking keen to impress. The Spaniard lost a lot of time on Vincenzo Nibali in the first week of the Tour, and Stage 8 gave him his first chance to make up some ground.
Nibali looked strong on the first two climbs, however, surrounded by the likes of Rui Costa and Bauke Mollema. Meanwhile, local hero Kadri impressed at the front of the race, as shared by Procyclingnews.eu:
#TDF 12 km to go and Kadri still have 4.22 min to the chasing Tinkoff Saxo team in the bunch. Chavanel and Yates are chasing in between— Procyclingnews.eu (@Procyclingeu) July 12, 2014
The weather now deteriorated quickly ahead of the short, final climb, and the peloton started preparing itself for fireworks. Michael Rodgers kept making pace for Contador, who readied himself for the launch with Nibali on his wheel.
Winner Kadri was well out of reach, finishing solo for the most prestigious victory of his professional career.
In the background, Nicolas Roche led the pack from the foot of the final climb and launched Contador right under the banner of final kilometer, but Nibali easily followed him up the slopes toward La Mauselaine, winning the first real battle of top contenders.
|7||Greg van Avermaet||BMC Racing||60|
|3||Sylvain Chavanel||I AM Cycling||6|
|3||Richie Porte||Team Sky||1:58|
|4||Michal Kwiatkowski||Omega Pharma-Quick Step||+2:26|
|10||Jurgen Van Den Broeck||Lotto Belisol||+3:02|
The battle for the general classification has now truly started, with Sunday's stage taking the riders from Gerardmer to Mulhouse. Six categorized climbs will greet the peloton, including the first category one, Le Markstein.
The final 20 kilometers are relatively flat, but by that time, the pack should be in bits and pieces. A finish with a group of the 20 top contenders for the yellow seems likely, although an early flight will have every chance to survive the 170 mountainous kilometers.