“With two weekends left, this is usually when the Tour de France starts,” said Dan Lloyd of Eurosport and GCN after the completion of Stage 8. “I’m now wondering if this will be the first Tour when every rider [except Tadej Pogacar] deliberately loses time to go for stage wins.”
On the first full day in the mountains, an otherworldly performance from the reigning champion saw him turn a deficit of just under four minutes at the start of the day into a lead of almost two at its end. That Pogacar did not also take the stage almost seemed like an act of generosity from the 22 year-old, as if he didn’t want his performance to appear too dominant.
Although shorter than yesterday’s blistering Stage 7 by 100km, Stage 8 packed no less into its distance. An uphill start, on the uncategorised but not unchallenging Foret d’Echallon, brought action from the fall of the race director’s flag. Casualties came quickly. The first of these were largely fastmen, the likes of Arnaud Demare and Tim Merlier, which was to be expected. Reports then reached us that Geraint Thomas had also fallen away from the front of the race. The 2018 Tour winner had hoped his injuries had healed enough to allow him to ride back into overall contention. A moto brought visual confirmation that they had not. Thomas would eventually cross the line with the grupetto, in 174th place, 35 minutes after the stage winner.
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The race rolled on, soon splitting into two sizable bunches of the best and the rest respectively. Team Jumbo Visma’s Primoz Roglic was initially in the former group, before it became clear that his body could not cope with the pace being set by sprinters hungry for green jersey points. Roglic cut a forlorn figure, as an almost cruel camera bike focussed on a face that could not even hide behind sunglasses in the rain.
Mark Cavendish being dropped early on, presented an opportunity for his punchier rivals to regain some ground. Bahrain Victorious’ Sonny Colbrelli took maximum points at the intermediate sprint, 39km into the stage, with Michael Matthews of Team BikeExchange in second.

Highlights: Catch up with everything from a barnstorming Stage 8 at the Tour de France

Their day done, the pace eased a little, but not for long, as the race to make the breakaway began in earnest. Even then it would take another 35km for one acceptable to the teams of the yellow and white jerseys to form in full. The one that eventually did contain some serious talent, including Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates, though none within six minutes of the race lead. As the group established a lead of three to four minutes, behind them the peloton seemed content to let one of them take the day - “seemed” being the operative word - as Pogacar and MVDP ate, drank and made merry.
That truce would not last long.
Trek’s Kenny Elissonde was the one to light the touchpaper, one kilometre from the top of the Cote de Mont-Saxonnex. Elissonde’s attack was chased down by Wout Poels, keen to keep the King of the Mountains jersey in his Bahrain Victorious team, before a pair of Team DSM riders, Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen, went over the top when the road headed downhill.

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The duo worked well together, building an advantage of several minutes, with Kragh Anderson briefly threatening the overall race lead.
On the penultimate climb, the Col de Romme, it was Mike Woods’ turn to try something. After making his move, the Canadian quickly reached and passed Kragh Anderson to become the leader on the road. Behind them in the peloton Ineos Grenadiers began to push the pace. Working for their new leader Richard Carapaz, Michal Kwiatkowski and Tao Geoghegan Hart increased pressure on Mathieu van der Poel until, at around 33km to go, the yellow jersey also fell out of contention.

'Off the charts' - The Breakaway reacts to Tadej Pogacar

Just a few kilometres later Tadej Pogacar decided to show them what he was made of. Carapaz was the only rider who could stay with the Slovenian, and even then for barely a few hundred metres. He was a man on a mission, and he executed it flawlessly.

'Here he goes!' - Pogacar attacks away from peloton

He hoovered up rider after rider from the original breakaway, eating into Woods’ four minute lead over him like it was made of marshmallow. The maillot jaune was in the bag; the only question was whether there was enough road left for him to take the stage as well.
With Pogacar closing fast, Dylan Teuns, having reached Michael Woods, saw fit to drop him towards the top of La Colombiere. It was the right decision. A solo Teuns took a few calculated risks on the descent but every one of them paid off. He was able to extend his margin into a stage-winning one, crossing the line with a margin of 44 seconds over Ion Izagirre.

'All youngsters should follow' - Roglic hailed for his positive attitude

Pogacar finished the stage in fourth place, to take his place as the undisputed race leader.
Credit must go to Wout van Aert, in his new, un-asked for role of Jumbo Visma team leader, who put in a valiant effort to cling on for as long as possible. The Belgian champion came home in 21st place and is now the only rider less than two minutes behind Pogacar. Only four more riders are within five.
“Who’s your biggest rival?” Seb Piquet asked the new leader after the stage. “Is it Tadej Pogacar?” The modest Slovenian was not so modest as to disagree

Pogacar: I was surprised by the amount of time I put in

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