Stage eight was pegged as a good day for the breakaway with seven categorized climbs, almost 4000 meters of vertical gain, across 200 kilometers and as soon as the flag dropped at kilometer zero, riders attacked.
In somewhat of a surprise, the first attack of the day was the one that stuck with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Ben King (Team Dimension Data), and Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie) going clear to gain a 30-second advantage in the opening ten kilometers.
Having missed the move, De Marchi attacked from the peloton and embarked on a 20-kilometer solo time trial to eventually catch the trio, by which the point the gap had extended to three minutes.
Although the breakaway’s advantage reached five minutes, the peloton controlled the situation and quickly brought the advantage back down to three minutes at the halfway mark of the stage.
De Marchi was quick to follow an attack from De Gendt towards the top of the Côte de la Croix de Part, the fifth climb of the day, and the duo forged on ahead, dropping King and Terpstra, and extended their advantage back to four minutes.
The continuous climbing throughout the stage took its toll with many riders dropped from the peloton however, Greg Van Avermaet and Simon Geschke remained in the mix approaching the day’s final climbs.
Despite the fast-approaching peloton, De Marchi and De Gendt held a one minute, thirty-second advantage with 20 kilometers to go, with just the final categorized climb to come.
At the foot of the Côte de la Jaillère, De Marchi and De Gendt’s advantage was down to 50 seconds and although the duo maintained their advantage on the climb, De Marchi was unable to respond to an attack from De Gendt on the steepest part and was caught by the peloton at the summit.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ) attacked at the top of the climb and distanced themselves from the peloton but, despite a hard chase, the French duo was unable to catch De Gendt, who held on to take the solo win with Alaphilippe re-taking the Maillot Jaune.
Van Avermaet sprinted to eighth place from the chasing group, 26 seconds behind De Gendt, while De Marchi rolled across the line a further four minutes back after an incredibly tough day of racing.
Quotes from the Finish Line
Alessandro De Marchi:
“It was strange that the first attempt to form a breakaway was the one that went and the peloton blocked the road, so if you were two meters behind, you missed the moment. Then, the guys tried to open the race again and with this, I was able to find a spot and go alone to chase the three guys. I was lucky that it was not too late so it wasn’t a super big gap to close. They were smart in the front as they waited a bit for me. In the end, I was doing a good tempo but I wasn’t killing myself because it was more about staying as close as possible and waiting to see if they would wait for me. I didn’t spend too much energy.”
“There was a moment when De Gendt and I went when I had the feeling that we could keep going with that pace and go to the finish. Like always, you need the combination of everything to work for you. When the teams started to chase, they closed the gap a bit. It comes down to seconds. Without the pulling of those teams, I think we were able to go to the finish. In the end, with De Gendt, we saw he was unbeatable. There was a moment I thought I could beat him but I realize now that he was playing a bit. It won’t be my last breakaway. I will try again and I hope that a day like this will help me to get in the mood, with the mind, and the legs. We will see. I will try to do my best as always and then, you need some luck.”
Greg Van Avermaet:
“It was a super hard day today. We were going full gas all day. It was good that we had De Marchi in front. He was super strong and it was a strong breakaway but with only four guys up the road, it wasn’t a lot and I was surprised that De Gendt made it to the finish because behind, we never stopped. It was always a constant tempo, really fast. The breakaway set a really hard tempo too but in the peloton, there were some teams interested in going for the stage so, it was not easy there either. For me, I was going ‘a bloc’ all day and in the end, I just tried to follow the other teams who were setting a super hard pace. I was there in the sprint so, it was quite good. It wasn’t for the victory but it was a good feeling to be there with the small group behind.”
Tour de France
Stage 8 Macon > Saint-Etienne (200km)
Top 3: 1. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), 2. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ), 3. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck- QuickStep)
CCC Team top 3: 8. Greg Van Avermaet, 42. Alessandro De Marchi, 49. Simon Geschke