The youngest rider in this year's Tour de France, Frenchman, Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat) took the biggest win of his professional career today when he soloed into Porrentruy urged on by his boisterous and overly animated team manager, Marc Madiot.
On a stage that was comprised of seven categorized climbs, Pinot took control of the race on the final climb, the Category 1 Col de la Croix. The 22-year-old caught and passed the lone remnant of the original breakaway, Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), shortly before the summit, and then successfully negotiated the descent and the final flat run in of the finale.
He would win by a scant 26 seconds, barely holding off a hard charging select group of riders, including the malliot jaune, Bradley Wiggins (Sky Procycling).
Defending Tour de France champion, Cadel Evans (BMC Racing), who looks to defend his title with every fiber of his being, took second, while Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) rounded out the day's podium.
Results - Stage 8 - Belfort - Porrentruy (157.5km)
1. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat - 3:56:10
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team - 0:00:26
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan
Reports of Demise Exaggerated
Despite Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) holding on to the yellow leader's jersey for six stages, the general perception is that RadioShack-Nissan's Tour has been an utter disaster.
The pre-Tour news of the absences of Andy Schleck, their top General Classification contender, and Director Sportif, Johan Bruyneel, certainly contributed to that negative perception, and it has not at all been aided during the race by the poor and unfortunate positioning of Frank Schleck, who has been caught in or behind several large crashes.
But on Stage 8, the team more than dispelled any reports of their demise as they were prominently featured out front for most of the day, which was capped off with Tony Gallopin's third place finish.
Presently, RadioShack-Nissan has two riders, Haimar Zubeldia and Maxime Monfort, in the top ten of the General Classification, and it now sits atop the standings in the Team Classification.
Disaster? At this juncture, Garmin-Sharp would more than welcome such a disastrous outcome.
Quick-Stepping Through the Tour - Hard Days Night
"It was a really hard day," Kevin De Weert, who was in a key breakaway that produced the eventual stage winner, said. "From the start it was impressive, the attacks. At one point Sylvain [Chavanel] was in the front but at another point more than 20 riders were ahead. We discussed at the meeting to try to put someone in front, to try and jump on a climb. It worked, and I came to the front. There were two riders up the road. With 20 riders in my group, it was not a good situation, so I tried to attack. Then all the riders came back together except a few. Then at the end, I think all the efforts I did all week, the first week with Levi, I was dead at the end. But we tried and we will keep on trying."
"I think everybody was just suffering," Levi Leipheimer, top finisher for the team in 20th place, said. "It was a really hard stage. I didn't expect it to break up as much as it did. I was surprised by the climbs, they were really, really tough here. These last few days have been harder than anyone expected. What can you say? It's been a great race."
"Levi was in the group in front of me and it was a really hard day," Peter Velits said. "It was super hard in the beginning. I was in good position once, but I got dropped 1km from the top of the big climb at the end. But it is still better than yesterday, I had a better feeling in my legs, and I am confident."
"Today was a hard day in the mountains," Tony Martin said. "The hand was also painful, but OK, I passed two mountain stages now. I am focused on the time trial tomorrow. Tonight I will try to fix a little my position on the bike. We will try to find a good position with the mechanics to tune things up and have a perfect set up for tomorrow. I will try to do my best tomorrow, but it won't be easy for me."
General Classification After Stage 8
1. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling - 38:17:56
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team - 0:00:10
3. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale - 0:00:16
4. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team - 0:00:54
5. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan - 0:00:59
6. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling - 0:01:32
7. Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan - 0:02:08
8. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team - 0:02:11
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale - 0:02:21
10. Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne - 0:02:27
Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana Pro Team) took over the lead in the King of Mountains Classification, becoming the first Swede to wear the the maillot a pois rouges.
Jersey Leaders After Stage 8
maillot jaune - Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling
maillot vert - Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas-Cannondale
maillot à pois rouges - Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team
maillot blanc - Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
Team Classification After Stage 8
1. RadioShack-Nissan - 114:56:52
2. Sky Procycling - 0:02:51
3. Liquigas-Cannondale - 0:10:06
4. Katusha Team - 0:10:40
5. Omega Pharma - Quickstep - 0:13:07
6. Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne - 0:15:38
7. BMC Racing Team - 0:16:17
8. Movistar Team - 0:16:53
9. Astana Pro Team - 0:18:57
10. AG2R La Mondiale - 0:19:05
Next: Stage 9 - Arc-et-Senans - Besançon (ITT, 41.5km)
Photo: Associated Press