9 Big Photos from Stage 8sirotti

Stage 8 Results

General Classification after Stage 8:

Full Results (click on "Stage Standing") —
Sánchez wins Tour's second day in Pyreneescyclingnews
  Last Km (03:32 dutch) — nos
Sanchez wins stage 8, while Nocentini earns another day in yellowvelonews
high-res victory salute
Luis León Sánchez ganó la octava etapaas
  Last Km (01:00 no commentary) — eurosport
  Stage 8 Highlights Part 1 (02:21) — eurosport
  Stage 8 Highlights Part 2 (01:37) — eurosport
  Pre Race Interviews: Lance and others to come — versus
  Luis Leon Sanchez Post Stage Interview (00:40 english) — letour
Sanchez wins from break as Tour favourites cancel each other
  A well edited montage of video highlights set to music (02:23) — TheRoBByy2009
  KOM #1 Port d'Envalira (09:24 french) — french tv
Tour Teams Aim to Repeal Two-Stage Ban on Radiosnytimes
  Stage 8 recap, Astana Update (02:30) — bonnie ford, espn
  ITV stage 8 podcast with Matt Rendell, Ned Boulting and Chris BoardmanITV
Graham Watson Stage 8 Photosgrahamwatson
Stage 8 Recap/Highlights (03:12) —
9 Big Photos from Stage 8sirotti

Post Stage Analysis

Luis León Sánchez Plays It Perfect in Saint-Girons
Second ever stage win for Sánchez, Nocentini still in Yellow after hectic day of racing

Luis León Sánchez of Caisse d’Épargne celebrated his second ever stage win after a hot day in the Pyrénées. Sánchez won from a four-up breakaway in a close sprint against Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux. Despite attempts by Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck to shake up the general classification, the overall standings remain unchanged after today’s fast stage, which included three major climbs. Team Astana did the work of controlling the pace, though Rinaldo Nocentini of AG2R-La Mondiale wears the Yellow Jersey of race leader.

The Story

Fast and furious racing animated the first climb of the day today, the Port d’Envalira. The stage began on the lower slopes of the climb, and it was race on, as a series of attacks came from the main field and the race situation constantly reshuffled. A tailwind on this first climb made for high speeds and nervy racing. Though Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux summited the Port d’Envalira first, the big story was behind him, as Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto made an early bid to better his standing in the general classification. Behind Casar, Christophe Kern of Cofidis summited second, and Egoi Martinez third, while Evans drove a group of three that included Vladimir Efimkin of AG2R-La Mondiale and David Zabriskie of Garmin-Slipstream, who covered Evans for Bradley Wiggins and Christian Vandevelde.

On the descent from the Port d’Envalira, Fabian Cancellara, Thor Hushovd, Juan Antonio Flecha, and George Hincapie caught the Evans group. In the main field, meanwhile, Astana began to chase, defending a race lead they have yet to achieve. At kilometer 50, a group of ten had combined at the front, including Sandy Casar, Fabian Cancellara, Vladimir Efimkin, David Zabriskie, Juan Antonio Flecha, Egoi Martinez, Christophe Kern, and Cadel Evans. The presence of Evans significantly complicated the chances of the break. Both Fabian Cancellara and Thor Hushovd strongly encouraged the Australian to return to the main field, as Astana feathered the gap, holding it to around a minute. Evans soon yielded to their pressures and dropped back.

With Evans departure, the break reshuffled as some riders dropped off and four riders bridged across from the main field. Sébastien Rosseler of Quick Step, Mikhail Ignatiev of Katusha, Luis León Sánchez of Caisse d’Épargne, and Mikel Astarloza of Euskaltel-Euskadi now joined the break. In the meantime, Thor Hushovd out-sprinted George Hincapie, team mate to Mark Cavendish, who began the day in the Green Jersey. With his victory in the first intermediate sprint at Luzenac, Hushovd took over the lead in the Points classification. Hushovd also won the second sprint at Tarascon-sur-Ariège. A savvy campaigner for the Green Jersey, Hushovd knows that the points competition is not only about the stage victories.

As the break approached the second climb of the day, the Col de Porte, the gap began to go out to the Astana-led field. At kilometer 100, nine riders comprised the break, which held a gap of 3.12 over the main field. The break now included: Luis-León Sánchez, Vladimir Efimkin, Mikel Astarloza, George Hincapie, Fabian Cancellara, Sandy Casar, Juan Antonio Flecha, Sébastien Rosseler, and Mikhail Ignatiev. Ignatiev looked especially determined on the Col de Porte and did the majority of the work, but Sandy Casar crossed the summit first. Efimkin, meanwhile, with his AG2R-La Mondiale team-mate wearing the Yellow Jersey of race leader did not contribute to the break. Luis León Sánchez held the highest general classification position in the escape.

As the break hit the final climb of the day, the Col d’Agnès, their numbers dwindled rapidly, and only five riders remained. Efimkin, Casar, Astarloza, Hincapie, and Sánchez began the final climb as the only survivors from the early break. The absence of Cancellara from the break unravelled the strategy Saxo Bank had envisioned for the stage. Bjarne Riis explained after the stage that the team had planned for Andy and Fränk Schleck to attack on the final climb and meet up with Cancellara, who would do the hard work of driving the long, flat run-in to the finish. Stomach problems for Cancellara during the stage put paid to that idea, and by the final climb, he could no longer maintain the pace in the break.

On the final climb, Astarloza attacked from the break, while behind Astana did the work of controlling the gap. Not ready to abandon their hopes, Saxo Bank went to the front and intensified the tempo on the early slopes of the climb. Andy Schleck then took a sharp dig, but Levi Leipheimer of Astana proved quick to follow. Schleck continued to force the pace, while Astana lined up behind him. Yellow Jersey Rinaldo Nocentini found the pace too high, fueling speculation that Saxo Bank wanted to put Astana in the Yellow Jersey. Riis’s explanation of the team's tactics puts paid to that notion, and Astana is already doing the work of controlling the race, in any case. When his first attack proved unsuccessful, Andy Schleck tried again, but still could not shake his rivals in the general classification.

Aware that he could not overturn the general classification today, Andy Schleck drifted to the back of the field and Astana took over their customary position at the front. The gap to the break began to go up again, while the main field grew in numbers. Nocentini came back to the Astana-led group, signaling that there would be no change in the race lead today. Now only the stage win remained in play.

Over the top of the Col d’Agnès, Efimkin summited first, and with 38 kilometers to race, the break numbered four riders. Vladimir Efimkin, Mikel Astarloza, Luis León Sánchez, and Sandy Casar held an advantage of nearly 3 minutes as they headed down the tricky descent off the Col d’Agnès. Dropped from the break on the final climb, George Hincapie lingered for a time between the break and the Yellow Jersey group, before drifting back to the field.

As the kilometers counted down to the finish, the break mostly worked together, though Nocentini continued to play the Yellow Jersey card and skip pulls. So late in the stage, Nocentini pushed his luck with this ploy, since the break no longer posed any threat to his team-mate’s general classification position. Just inside 5 kilometers to go, the first attack came from Mikel Astarloza. Sandy Casar covered the move, while Efimkin bluffed weakness behind Sánchez. Straightaway came a counter from Efimkin and with 4 kilometers to race, the AG2R-La Mondiale rider had opened up a gap on the remains of the break.

While Efimkin put his head down and drove to the finish, the three behind chased smoothly together. In a rare moment of agreement, the break had clearly decided to ride together against Efimkin, who perhaps now paid for his decision to skip pulls in the finale. Steadily the gap came down, and in another round of bluff, Luis León Sánchez took slightly shorter pulls than the rest, in a calculated gamble that the chase would succeed. As the chase crossed under the red kite, they had Efimkin in their sights. The catch came with 600 meters to go. Casar and Sánchez passed to either side of Efimkin, as they wound up their sprint. Casar went first, but at the line, Sánchez came out ahead in a battle of inches.

Today marked the second ever Tour stage win for Luis León Sánchez. The Caisse d’Épargne rider last year won stage 7, this year stage 8. “We started the Tour with a little lack of motivation because of the absence of Valverde. But we showed that we are professional. We needed this victory to raise our motivation,” Sánchez explained after the stage. The young Spanish talent dedicated his race to his “whole team, including Alejandro,” and to his brother who died in a motorcycle accident. “I thank my brother in Heaven for helping me get this victory, today,” said Sánchez, who crossed the line pointing to the sky. “I always dedicate my victories to him,” he concluded.

As for the general classification, Rinaldo Nocentini survived the day and will wear the Yellow Jersey of race leader again tomorrow. The Italian found the hot, fast stage today hard going after yesterday's long day out in the breakaway. “It was harder than I expected,” he admitted. On the final climb, “the jersey was a little in danger, but we came back on the final descent,” he explained. Nocentini remains uncertain if he can defend the jersey tomorrow, because the climbs are much harder. “I am hoping there is an escape and we can take it a bit easy,” he confided. That may prove wishful thinking, because with two major climbs on the menu, it is not likely to be an easy stage. Today’s race showed that the general classification riders are not content to allow Astana to have it easy, and tomorrow could prove no different.

General Classification Update

Here is the current top ten:
Rinaldo Nocentini AG2R-La Mondiale
Alberto Contador Astana :06
Lance Armstrong Astana :08
Levi Leipheimer Astana :39
Bradley Wiggins Garmin-Slipstream :46
Andreas Klöden Astana :54
Tony Martin Columbia-HTC 1:00
Christian Vandevelde Garmin-Slipstream 1:24
Andy Schleck Saxo Bank 1:49
Vincenzo Nibali Liquigas-Doimo 1:54

Rinaldo Nocentini leads the general classification by 6 seconds over Alberto Contador and 8 seconds over Lance Armstrong. The race favorites made it safely to the finish today, with the exception of Franco Pellizotti of Liquigas-Doimo. The Italian, who placed third in the Giro d’Italia, dropped out of the top 20 and finished just over 14 minutes behind on today’s stage. No word yet as to whether Pellizotti planned his descent in the standings. He may have a plan to chase a stage win and wanted to rest his legs, or he may simply be fatigued by the effort of racing the Tour de France so soon after the Giro d’Italia.

Other General Classification riders: 13) Fränk Schleck of Saxo Bank @ 2:25, 14) Roman Kreuziger of Liquigas-Doimo @ 2:40 15) Carlos Sastre of Cervélo TestTeam @ 2:52, 18) Cadel Evans of Silence-Lotto @ 3:07, 23) Vladimir Karpets of Katusha @ 3:49, 24) Denis Menchov of Rabobank @ 5:02.

Other classifications: After his canny riding in the break today, Thor Hushovd of Cervélo TestTeam takes over the lead in the Points classification. He leads Mark Cavendish by 9 points and Gerald Ciolek by 51. The mountains jersey also changed hands today, and Christophe Kern of Cofidis now leads Mountains classification ahead of Egoi Martinez of Euskaltel-Euskadi and yesterday’s stage winner Brice Feillu of Agritubel. Tony Martin, meanwhile, continues to lead the Young Riders classification by 49 seconds over Andy Schleck and 54 seconds over Vincenzo Nibali. Astana leads the teams classification, while Sandy Casar of Français des Jeux won the most combative prize for today’s stage.

Looking Ahead

Tomorrow’s stage passes over two major climbs in the Pyrénées, the Col d’Aspin and the Col de Tourmalet. The Col de Tourmalet is a monster at 17 kilometers and carries a hors catégorie rating. In keeping with their scheme to keep the race open as long as possible, the finish in Tarbes lies around 70 kilometers from the summit of the Col de Tourmalet. It looks like another day for a successful breakaway, and we can expect the smaller teams with strong climbers to go after it early in the day.

Rinaldo Nocentini will have a difficult time holding the jersey tomorrow, and we could see a new race leader. Otherwise, though, the general classification riders will have a difficult time making a difference on the long run-in to the finish. No doubt someone will try, if only to make the race harder and complicate the efforts of Astana to dictate the proceedings.

For more details on tomorrow’s stage,please turn the page.

This stage preview is available in the following languages:

(We are looking for translations in ALL other languages. Please submit your translation with the stage no. and language in the subject title.)

Course Preview

Also follow steephill on Twitter for the latest race info and video updates.

Stage 8 Andorre-la-Vieille - Saint-Girons

Terrain Type: Mountainous, then descends to a flat finish.
GC Importance: Non-decisive. A bad day in the mountains during this stage could cost a general classification favorite dearly, but the stage does not lend itself to a decisive move. The favorites should finish together, barring any mishaps or bad legs.

Port d'Envalira 23.2 km, avg. 5.1 %, catégorie 1
Col de Port 11.4 km, avg. 5.5 % catégorie 2
Col d'Agnès 12.4 km, avg. 6 %, catégorie 1

With today’s stage, the Tour says adiós to Spain and Andorre and returns to France by way of the Pyrénées. The stage begins in Andorre-la-Vieille, the capital of the independent principality, Andorre. Independent principalities, so hot this year. The stage includes three climbs as it passes through the Pyrénées. Though a mountain stage, the climbs are not the kind of hors catégorie monsters that shatter the field. The final climb summits just over 45 kilometers from the finish, which may serve to neutralize it in terms of the general classification battle.

The stage winner in Saint-Girons will most likely come from an early breakaway. With three categorized climbs, this stage is also a good one for collecting mountains classification points. The general classification riders, meanwhile, will save their legs for another day.

The Tour follows a similar pattern to 1997 with the finish at Andorre-Arcalis and the following stage start at Andorre-la-Vieille. The Andorre-la-Vieille stage, which climbed the Port d’Envalira and the Col de Chioula, finished in Perpignan. French rider Laurent Desbiens of Cofidis won the stage from a three-up breakaway. Though Sergueï Outschakov of Polti won the sprint, the race jury ruled that the Ukrainian changed his line and blocked Desbiens. They disqualified Outschakov and awarded victory to Desbiens. Andorre-la-Vieille has hosted a Tour stage finish only once previously. Julio Jimenez of KAS-Kaskol celebrated the stage victory in 1964. Georges Groussard of Pelforth wore the Yellow Jersey that day. Though Groussard held the jersey for nine days during the 1964 Tour, Jacques Anquetil of Saint-Raphaël won the overall in Paris.

The Tour most recently visited Saint-Girons in 2003, when it hosted the start of stage 14. Italian climber Gilberto Simoni of Saeco won that stage, which passed over six categorized climbs before finishing in Loudienville. Lance Armstrong of U.S. Postal led the general classification by 15 seconds over Jan Ullrich of Team Bianchi and went on to win the overall in Paris that year.

Profile Details

The start is on the lower slopes of the Port d’Envalira, and the riders will begin the climb immediately. A solid warm-up before the stage today might be a good idea, because the first 23.5 kilometers of the stage are uphill. The Port d’Envalira is rated category 1 and has an average gradient of 5.1%. The first five kilometers stair-step, and the gradients alternate between 5% and 3%. At kilometer 5, the climb hits its maximum gradient of 9%. This steep section lasts approximately a kilometer. Then the gradient flattens to 2%.

For the next seven kilometers the climb is not especially steep, averaging around 4%. Shaped like a ski jump, the Port d’Envalira steepens as it climbs, and the final kilometers are at 6%. The summit comes at 2407 meters above sea level and lies 154 kilometers from the finish. This opening climb should tempt an early breakaway to go on the attack, but the general classification riders will stay close and hold their fire.

From the summit of the Port d’Envalira, the riders face a lengthy descent. The course drops 1672 meters in the 34 kilometers to Aix-les-Thermes. From Aix-les-Thermes, the course makes a left turn and heads toward the first intermediate sprint of the day in Luzanac. The profile is still descending here, but so gradually as to be nearly un-noticeable. Just over 15 kilometers later comes the second intermediate sprint of the day at Tarascon-sur-Ariège.

Then it’s back to climbing. The second category Col de Port begins at kilometer 90, and climbs 11.4 kilometers. Though long, the Col de Port is not especially steep. It does include a kilometer at 9%, which isn’t especially comfortable. The average gradient is 5.5%, and the Col de Port starts out gently. The first 8 kilometers stair-step and the gradients alternate between 2% and 5%. Just after 8 kilometers, the climb steepens and for two kilometers the gradient is over 7%. The maximum gradient occurs between kilometers 12 and 13. Then it’s a stair-stepping ride to the summit at 1250 meters above sea level. The Col de Port summits with 74.5 kilometers to race and there are mountains points on offer.

After 12 kilometers of descending, the stage passes through Massat. The course doglegs south, and begins the final climb of the day almost immediately after the descent. The Col d’Agnès climbs 12.4 kilometers at an average gradient of 6%. The road is narrow and curves around the mountainside with several steep ramps along the way. The first six kilometers climb gradually. At kilometer six, the gradient steepens to 7.4%. For the next seven kilometers, the road pitches up steeply with little space for recovery. With 5 kilometers to go to the summit, the Col d’Agnès flattens out for a kilometer. Then it’s a steep pull to the summit. The final kilometer has a 7.9% gradient and the Col d’Agnès summits at 1570 meters above sea level.

It’s still a long way to the stage finish in Saint-Girons. From the summit of the Col d’Agnès, there remains 44 kilometers to race. If a big break goes away early in this stage, the Col d’Agnès may serve to whittle down the numbers. The lengthy descend and long flat drag to the finish will make it difficult for a small group escape to stay away. It seems unlikely that the general classification will be in play on this stage finish, though certainly, stranger things have happened during the merry month of July. The final five kilometers are flat, and the stage finishes on the avenue de la Résistance in Saint-Girons.

Who to Watch

Look for an early break of climbers who aren’t riding for the general classification to go on the Port d’Envalira. This stage offers teams who are well-stocked with climbers a nice opportunity for some teevee time and a possible stage win. Caisse d’Épargne, Euskaltel-Euskadi, and Lampre-Ngc are jerseys we are likely to see in the break. David Moncoutié of Cofidis, who won a mountain stage at the Critérium Dauphiné Libéré might also take an interest in this stage, though the flat finish does not suit his characteristics especially well. For riders interested in the mountains classification, this stage is also a good day to ride the break and scoop up the points on the three categorized climbs.

Magic Eight Ball says: Can’t Predict Right Now. A stage like this one with its difficult climbs and long, flat run-in is nearly impossible to predict. The Tour organizers have stacked this year’s race with non-decisive stages, in the effort to keep the suspense high until Paris. Perhaps they also hope to lure one of the favorites into making a big attack, though this stage is probably too early in the game to throw the dice. The stage winner will likely come from a breakaway and from a smaller team, while the general classification remains unchanged unless one of the favorites suffers a jour sans, a bad day.

  Bernard Hinault Previews Stage 8 in english and en franç
  Versus Stage 8 Previewversus

A Panoramic view of the Ariege Pyrenees featuring Col de Port and Col d'Agnes and in the far distance is Port d'Envalira

Here are three reports from the Ariège Pyrénées in 2005 which cover the French portion of Saturday's Stage 8 route plus more: Day 1: Col de la Core, Ariege
Day 2: Col de la Crouzette, Ariege
Day 3: Col d'Agnes and Col d'Escots

Gavia (updates to this preview will be made during the race and especially the day before the stage with current analysis)<-->