11/07/15 - 12:00
Rennes - Mûr-de-Bretagne
Tour de France • Stage8

Rennes - Mûr-de-Bretagne

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Sagan did take the green jersey from Andre Greipel, however. His fourth place was enough to put him three points clear of the German veteran...


No change in the immediate overall classification with Chris Froome retaining his 11-second lead over Peter Sagan - who just missed out on those four bonus seconds for third place.


Dan Martin hits the handlebars in frustration - he wanted the win... but it went to Alexis Vuillermoz - that's the first for France in this year's Tour.


Martin was second, while Valverde pipped Sagan for third place in a group of chasers.


Victory for Vuillermoz! The Frenchman follows up his third on the Mur de Huy with a win on the Mur de Bretagne!


It will be one of Vuillermoz and Martin... Sagan won't chase...


Dan Martin leads the chase now!


Now Froome takes it up with Rodriguez - and Vuillermoz pops clear with gusto!


Sagan is still there, but Geshke, Vuillermoz and one of the Yates have a gap. Froome leads the chase under the banner.


Giant have two men for Barguil, who is in the wheel of Froome. Kwiatkowski has blown as Vuillermoz and Yates have a pop.


Konig still driving the pace, with Froome and Thomas in his wheel. Giant now edge clear for Barguil...


It's a 2km long climb that rises in one straight line - and here we are...


Porte and Konig now driving the pace for Froome on the front. Dan Martin is there too - and both Bardet and Pinot are readying themselves. Barguil too.


Orica-GreenEdge have edged forward - perhaps one of the Yates twins. Froome has Thomas and Konig aroung him.


A couple of IAM riders have edged up, ditto Katusha. All the favourites are gathering near the fore - Sagan and Contador are there for Tinkoff-Saxo.


Europcar have riders on the front behind BMC. The pace is ferocious. Froome is there too in yellow.


John Degenkolb is one of the numerous riders to throw in the towel. He'll be keeping his fingers crossed for team-mate Warren Barguil...


Michal Golas and Lars Bak are swept up by the pack. BMC are driving the pace - they're wearing yellow helmets as the best overall team. Many riders have called it a day and are soft pedalling off the back.


Bak and Golas still combine together out ahead. They have 15 seconds as QuickStep come to the front of the peloton with Astana on one side, while BMC form on the other.


Bartosz Huzarski is the first of the escapees to be caught - he was out in the earlier break so it's no surprise he was first to succumb.


There's a leg-sapping uphill drag that's done for many riders - including Mark Cavendish, yesterday's stage winner.


CRASH: Three riders go down near the back of the peloton - Damien Gaudin (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and an MTN-Qhubeka rider, maybe Merhawi Kudus.


Cannondale-Garmin still front the peloton with six riders - they clearly fancy Dan Martin's chances today. The Irishman has had a quiet opening week - he crashed a bit early on, and was there or threre abouts on the Mur de Huy for stage 3, but started the climb too far back.


Just 35 seconds now and the carrots looked cooked for the three leaders.


Sean Kelly has gone for Quintana or Stybar for the win today; Jon Harris-Bass is going for Tony Gallopin, and Carlton Kirby is all for Rodriguez or Arredondo.


Look out for: A rare occurrence in the locality is bound to be caught by the helicopter cameras near the finish where, for the first time in 30 years, Lake de Guerlédan - the biggest artificial lake in Brittany that was flooded in 1930 - has been drained. The last time it was emptied, Brittany's most famous rider - Bernard Hinault - was riding to his fifth and final Tour win. Around 3m visitors came to see the lost valley moonscape of submerged locks, houses and forests when the lake was last drained. No Frenchman was won the Tour since the lake was last emptied...


Sky have moved to the front now alongside Cannondale-Garmin. BMC are also there. The gap is 40 seconds to the two Poles and one Dane up front are tiring.


Lotto-Soudal, Tinkoff-Saxo, Movistar and Cannondale-Garmin are all heavily present on the front of the pack - but nevertheless the gap is still 55 seconds for the thee leaders, Golas, Huzarski and Bak.


We spoke to Joaquim Rodriguez this morning about the Mur-de-Bretagne: "I don't know this finish at all - I've just been looking at pictures in the internet. The end is not so bad but it's hard to start with. I'll try to be well placed. I think Alejandro (Valverde) will try something near the end of the stage so we're gong to have to work hard today."


Still one minute for the three leaders. There's a cross headwind which is making things tricky. It's a big call for the break, though - none of them are punchy climbers so they will suffer to stay out even with a minute to play with on the Mur-de-Bretagne.


Andre Greipel was just picking up water bottles for his team-mates - that's dedication for you. His work is done today after taking what he could in the intermediate sprint.The big German can climb, but he won't feature in the sprint for today's win at the Mur-de-Bretagne.


You sense a bit of panic in the pack - it's all strung out as Tinkoff-Saxo come to the front alongside Cannondale-Garmin. Those three veterans have 1:15 now and it's very much game on.


These three riders are very experienced: Bak is 35, Huzarski is 34 and Golas 31. Sean Kelly thinks they will be hard to reel in - and Cannondale-Garmin are doing their best.


This move could be quite dangerous - the gap is up to 55 seconds for the three leaders. The other riders have been mopped up. And the pack covered 38.4km in the third hour. Digest all that!


Cannondale-Garmin have come to the front to lead the chase - they don't have anyone up ahead and they will fancy either Andrew Talansky or Dan Martin for the win at the Mur-de-Bretagne today.


The leading trio of Bak, Golas and Huzarski have 40 seconds over the peloton. They have 10 riders - including Boom - in pursuit, while Sagan and the others have sat up and rejoined the peloton.


There was a lack of unity in the haphazard break and Michal Golas of Etixx-QuickStep decided to take matters into his own hands. He's been followed by fellow Pole Bartosz Huzarski, who was part of the initial break, and Denmark's Lars Bak of Lotto-Soudal.


It's come back together for that leading group once they caught the four initial escapees. They have about 20 seconds on the peloton, which was being led by Team Sky.


Michal Kwiatkowski has decided to have a pop and he's managed to bridge the gap to the break, with Astana's Lars Boom in pursuit. Very interesting...


Some interesting faces in this chase group - including the world champion Kwiatkowski, sprinters Sagan, Greipel, Cavendish and Degenkolb...


There's a group of around 20 riders that have formed following the intermediate sprint - and Pierre Rolland has managed to stir things up a bit. They all look quite keen - especially after another Bretagne-Seche rider gets involved. They're just 40 seconds behind the break, so this is an interesting move...


Andre Greipel beats fellow German John Degenkolb for points for fifth place, with Cavendish and Sagan finishing quite a bit back following some lingering Giant-Alpecin riders. Greipel needed that - but will it be enough to stay in green tonight?


Pierre-Luc Perichon of local team Bretagne takes the honours at the intermediate sprint - which came atop a little climb. He beat Huzarski, while the other two escapees crossed the line a few seconds back.


The escapees are nearing the bottom of the descent and are approaching the intermediate sprint. They have 1:55 over the pack, so will mop up the points for the first four riders. Big pressure behind - Greipel will need points if he wants to keep the green jersey today because Sagan could well finish well on the Mur-de-Bretagne...


Frenchman Romain Sicard (Europcar) picks up the point atop the climb. The former Euskaltel rider was once labelled the great hope of French cycling after winning the Tour de l'Avenir in 2009. Things didn't work out as expected when he turned pro for the Basque team - and he has been given a chance to revive things at Europcar since signing in 2014. He rode the Giro and Vuelta last year - finishing 13th in the latter. The polka dot jersey may be a target of his this year - although team-mate Pierre Rolland may be better suited.


Loads of fans lining the road on this Cat.4 ascent of the Col du Mont Bel-Air. Brittany is one of the true heartlands of French cycling and that's reflected in the tumultuous throng of spectators gathering here on a sunny Saturday afternoon.


The gap is down to 1:55 now for the four leaders as they approach that climb... A reminder of those leaders: Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).


The riders have hit the feedzone... talking of which... time for today's plat du jour and Tour tipple!

Plat du Jour: Galette saucisse (sausages wrapped in pancakes) and some venison terrine.

Tour tipple: You can bet your house on a few riders of yesteryear filling up their bidons with chouchen - a type of mead that's very popular in Brittany. The 14% alcoholic kick of buckwheat honey packs a punch as big as a badly badgered Bernard Hinault.


The average speed for the second hour was almost 5km/h slower after the fast start to today's stage. The leaders completed 37.4km in the second hour compared to 42.2km in the first hour.


Just over two minutes for the leaders with 100km remaining. We have the Cat.4 climb coming up after the feedzone and ahead of the intermediate sprint. That should spice things up a bit before the feisty finale.


There are three KOM points up for grabs today - but the first one should be taken by one of the escapees. That means that unless Joaquim Rodriguez win's the stage on the Cat.3 Mur-de-Bretagne, Daniel Teklehaimanot of MTN-Qhubeka should keep the polka dot jersey right through to Tuesday seeing that tomorrow is the team time trial and Monday a rest day. The Eritrean has four points, with Rodriguez two points behind.


Sean Kelly believes today's break is not big enough. "With just four guys it's too difficult if you're riding all day. You need about 12 riders on a day like this - then you can really put the pressure on the peloton. Otherwise, it will be too hard in the final 30km for these four riders."


The lead has crept back up to 3:40 for the four leaders after the peloton took their collective foot of the gas. Juan Antonio Flecha spoke to world champion Michal Kwiatkowski of Etixx-QuickStep this morning: "Maybe I'm not the happiest guy here with the best results but the team spirit is good and I will try my best today. I've never done the Mur-de-Bretagne before but I heard it's a nice climb."


Believe it or not: The 1.6km ramp with an average gradient of 8.4% known as the Mûr-de-Bretagne is so arduous it's known as the Alpe d'Huez of Brittany - although confusingly, with a circonflexe accent above the 'u', mûr means 'ripe' and not 'wall' (mur). A morale boosting victory will be ripe for the picking today...


Juan Antonion Flecha, Eurosport's expert analyist, is tipping Michael Matthews for the win today. I'm not so sure. The Australian sprinter - who usually excels on these kinds of punchy finishes - has been riding with injured ribs and multiple cuts and bruises after his bad fall in stage three. He's slowly riding back to fitness, but I'd be surprised if he has the legs to contest with the likes of Valverde, Rodriguez, Froome, Contador, Barguil, Costa et al.


Belgian Thomas De Gendt has taken up his habitual position on the front of the peloton for Lotto-Soudal. He's managed to control the break's advantage, which is 2:10. Behind De Gendt there are numerous riders from LottoNL-Jumbo and Tinkoff-Saxo, which makes a change.


This is the second time Pierre-Luc Perichon has made the break in this year's Tour - the French 27-year-old Tour debutant rode solo for the majority of stage five after fellow escapee Nicolas Edet of Cofidis was forced back in the pack following the crash that ended team-mate Nacer Bouhanni's race.


History: Retired Australian Cadel Evans won on the Tour's only previous finish on the Mûr-de-Bretagne in 2011 - the year he would go on to win the yellow jersey in Paris. Here's a picture below of that day, with Alberto Contador setting the tempo on the front of the race...


The average speed for the first hour of racing today was a high 42.2kmh. Meanwhile, the riders from FDJ were allowed to zip ahead of the pack to stop on the side of the road in the town of Medreac to say hello to former FDJ rider Frederic Guesdon, the 1997 Paris-Roubaix winner who is now a directeur sportive in Thibaut Pinot's outfit.


None of these escapees are a threat to Chris Froome's yellow jersey: Chavanel, a former yellow jersey himself, is the best placed rider in 32nd place - but the Frenchman is almost eight minutes down on GC.


Lotto have reduced the gap to 3:30. A reminder of those four leaders, who extricated themselves after 9km today: Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18), Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling), Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Pierre-Luc Périchon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).


And it's the Lotto-Soudal team-mates of Greipel who have come to the front now to lead the chase. They're not working for the German today but for their man Tony Gallopin, who is one of the favourites for the Mur-de-Bretagne finale. Before that, mind, there will be the intermediate sprint - a target for Greipel as he tries to consolidate his lead in the points standings. A high finish for Sagan tonight, however, could see the Slovakian take the green jersey over from his German rival...


Andre Greipel extended his lead in the green jersey competition yesterday with his second place - the German veteran from Lotto-Soudal now leads Peter Sagan by 199 points to 187. But Cavendish's victory sees the Manxman move up into third on 151 points to stress that this is not merely a two-horse race. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) is just three points further back so it's all left to play for.


My tip for today is French tyro Warren Barguil. The 23-year-old rider from Giant-Alpecin hails from nearby Hennebont and is clearly one to watch on the punchy finish after winning a similar stage in the Vuelta back in 2013.


It's the Sky team of yellow jersey Chris Froome who are setting the tempo in the pack as the gap grows to almost four minutes now. Froome leads the race by 11 seconds over Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 13 seconds over American Tejay Van Garderen (BMC). Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) complete the top five at 26 and 28 seconds. With regards to the other Big Four, Alberto Contador is 36 seconds down, Vincenzo Nibali 1:38 and Nairo Quintana 1:56.


Those riders have come together so we have four out ahead - three Frenchman and a Pole - with a lead of around two minutes over the peloton. The break is on!


Two riders out ahead now in Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling) and Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon 18). They're being chased down by a French duo of Romain Sicard (Europcar) and Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Séché Environnement).


The attack comes to nothing and it's followed by a dig by Bob Jungels of Trek Factory Racing which also fizzes out.


And there it is - Bretagne-Séché Environnement keep to script and send a man up the road from the gun...


They're off! The eighth stage of this intriguing race is now under way - and we can expect a flurry of attacks from local boys Bretagne-Séché Environnement...


It's another sunny day as the remaining 185 riders roll through the neutral zone in Rennes. It's currently 23 degrees Celsius and we're in for another pleasant day in the saddle - much like the past two days on the Tour.


One withdrawal over night: Italy's Luca Paolini has been kicked off the race for testing positive for cocaine following Monday's stage to Huy. Katusha's bearded veteran has categorically denied any wrongdoing and returns home while awaiting tests on his B sample. This is one that will roll on... and it could spell the end of the 38-year-old's career.


Yesterday, Britain's Mark Cavendish won stage seven in Fougères to end a two-year drought without success on the world's biggest bike race. Cavendish put a couple of disappointing sprints - plus the withdrawal of Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Tony Martin - behind him with a vintage performance to outsprint Germany's Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) and secure the 26th Tour de France stage win of his career.


Hello and welcome to live coverage of stage eight of the Tour de France - a 181.5km ride through Brittany that features just one fourth category climb ahead of the punchy uphill finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne.