The first big day of climbing in the Pyrenees featured the category one Col de Menté and Col de Peyresourde, with the Hors Categorie Port de Balès in between, and a downhill run into the finish in Loudenvielle, in what was the perfect profile for a large breakaway.
Zakarin was quick to respond to the first real breakaway move and with various riders jumping from the peloton, the 13-rider group quickly formed. After holding a small advantage of 20 seconds for a couple of kilometers, the breakaway was given the freedom to extend their advantage with the peloton sitting up behind.
The gap between the breakaway and peloton reached a maximum of 14 minutes on the flat terrain in the opening 50 kilometers as the race approached the first climb of the day before starting to decrease on the descent of the Col de Menté.
Jerome Cousin (TDE) attacked from the breakaway on the valley leading into the Port de Balès to hold a one-minute advantage at the foot of the climb but a solid tempo set by Zakarin saw the breakaway split and the gap to Cousin quickly closed in.
The pace proved too high for the majority of the breakaway and with six kilometers remaining of the climb it was just Zakarin and Nans Peters (ALM) left in front. The duo crested the summit together before tackling the descent where Zakarin was distanced by Peters, who hit the base of the Col de Peyresourde with a 35-second advantage.
Zakarin persevered on the early slopes and kilometer by kilometer reduced the gap to Peters to have the Frenchman in his sights but couldn’t quite make the catch in the final kilometers of the climb.
Peters held on to take the win while on the final downhill and run into the finish, Zakarin was passed by Tomas Skujins (TSF) and Carlos Verona (MOV) to eventually settle for fourth place.
Quotes from the Finish Line
“I had this stage in my head as one to try on. We knew we wanted to send someone in the breakaway and in the meeting before the race, we spoke about me going for it. I tried and I made it. I felt good and I was climbing well but for me, descending is a big problem. I know it and it is my problem. They were fast descents and I tried but Nans Peter was also really strong today so congratulations to him.”
Steve Bauer, Sports Director:
“We felt Ilnur Zakarin was in pretty good shape and he looked good yesterday in the stage, in the crosswinds. He looked like he was ready for a big breakaway. So that was the plan to put him in the break, or maybe Jan Hirt or Simon Geschke. When the first attack went, Ilnur was there which was great, it was the right breakaway. He was strong but he just lost the race on the descents. He started the Col de Peyresourde 35 seconds back and bridged 30 of it but just couldn’t get that extra few seconds. It was a great try and a week from now in the Alpes, maybe he will go again and give it another try.”
Tour de France
Stage 8 Cazères-sur-Garonne > Loudenvielle (141km)
Top 3: 1. Nans Peters (AG2R La Mondiale), 2. Tomas Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), 3. Carlos Verona (Movistar Team)
CCC Team top 3: 4. Ilnur Zakarin, 77. Greg Van Avermaet, 86. Michael Schär