14/07/18 - 10:50
Dreux - Amiens
Tour de France • Stage8

Dreux - Amiens

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Tom Bennett

Cavendish got into the top ten again there.


Dan Martin crossed the line about 1'15" down on the sprinters. That's a huge, huge blow for his hopes of GC.


Sagan eventually took fourth, with Degenkolb, then Kristoff filling out the top six


Greipel was second there, with Gaviria in third


The Dutchman was by far the fastest in that finish.


Sagan went way too early today and made it easy for Groenewegen


Dylan Groenewegen comes from deep and takes it!


Sagan leads


Richeze lights it up

This is chaos


Greipel pushes Theuns off his teammates wheel.


Degenkolb is well placed in P5, while Cavendish is sitting on Demare's wheel


Lotto hit the front but Greipel has lost the wheel


Gilbert is still just ahead of the peloton.


The Belgian classics man tries to outrun the peloton, but DiData are on him.


Gilbert attacks!


They're going downhill now ahead of this technical finish.


Martin has burned all but one of his teammates trying to get back and it's going to be in vain.


Agonising for Martin. He can see the peloton. The time gap is 40 seconds now


The peloton is really lined out at the tail and they are hammering it along now.


We're hearing that Martin has almost regained contact with the peloton!


Soudal have their train in place on the front. Dimension Data and Sunweb also gunning it.


Grellier caught!


Grellier is almost caught. He is doing some dynamite painface as he milks every last second of this break.


Grellier guarantees the French will have something from the day, regardless of the result


This is terrible news for Martin, he's desperately trying to chase a peloton that is rapidly ratcheting up the speed.


At the sharp end of the peloton the GC teams and the sprint squads are muscling for position. It's really angsty stuff.


The break of two are now one. Grellier has ditched his Dutch mate Minnaard and attacks for glory. He has 20 seconds.


The entire UAE team, barring Kristoff, is back with Martin now. They know how important this is.


The Martin group is about 40 seconds behind the peloton.


The chase is very much on now to get Martin back in contact to avoid any time losses.


What will this mean for Kristoff's chances in the sprint? He won't have much team support given it's all back with Martin.


I tell a lie, looks like Alaphilippe is pedalling quite gingerly now. He's in this chasing bunch with Martin and his domestiques. Meanwhile, up front the pace in the peloton has quickened and the gap is already down to 40"


Dan Martin instantly has three deputies to help him back to the peloton. He's bleeding from his right elbow.


Alaphilippe on the other hand seems to have shaken it off and is heading back to the peloton.


Martin is bleeding and his kit is ripped. He's fallen really badly there.


Julian Alaphilippe and Dan Martin are also involved and Martin looks to be taking some time to get back on his bike.


Toms Skujins is one of the riders down, as is Tony Martin.


Crash in the peloton.


We've got a bonus seconds sprint here and, as he did yesterday, van Avermaet goes for them to extend his cushion in the yellow jersey. He gets another second for crossing third (behind the two in the break), putting him sevenseconds ahead of Geraint Thomas now.


Not only is it Bastille Day, we're also finishing in Arnaud Demare's home region of Picardie today. Could the former French champion have any more reason to try and win today?

Break is at 1'16".


Simon Gerrans gets a puncture at an inopportune time. He won't be available to keep his leader Richie Porte safe in the final run-in.


The babyfaced killer, Antwan Tolhoek, is giving it the Barry McGuigan (big'un) on the front of the bunch now as he eats into the break's advantage.


A harsh prediction for today's winner...


Nicholas Edet is struggling to catch back onto the back of the peloton after going back for some bidons. He and his Cofidis teammates will be working for Christophe Laporte today, an outside chance for a French stage win.


Some hijinks here from the break? A bit of chat et souris as they extend their gap then let it fall..


Predicitions, folks?


The green lids of Team Dimension Data are visible near the front of the bunch now. Can they put Mark Cavendish in for a win? By the Manxman's own admission it's going to take some real nous for him to beat the likes of Gaviria and Sagan - he simply isn't as fast as he once was.

The gap is back out to 2'00", as the sprint teams give out a little bit more rope to avoid making the catch too soon.


This is what the stage finish looks like. It's quite a tricky, technical one, with a momentum-arresting left hander with 600m to go. Riders will be looking to come out of that turn in good position and we could see some argy-bargy.

Peter Sagan has drawn a lot of attention this year for being a bit liberal with the elbows, so we'll see how he fares later on. He was DQed last year, remember, for tangling with Mark Cavendish.


Not much to report at this point, we have about an hour left of the stage and the break's advantage is 1'45".


Andre Greipel will be looking to replicate his win here the last time the Tour came to Amiens in 2015, but the German has struggled to hold the wheels of the fastest riders this year.

Alexander Kristoff is a good outside shout, he was notably not interested in today's intermediate sprint after contesting the one in yesterday's stage. He could be on a bad day, of course, or he could have been conserving every joule of energy for the finale today.


So, who could win today?

The finish is less difficult than yesterday, there's no hint of an upward gradient, with a slight descent into the penultimate kilometre - which means it suits the fastest finishers like Gaviria more than the really powerful riders like Sagan.

Arnaud Demare is France's best hope for a stage win on Bastille Day, while Marcel Kittel is desperately in need of a confidence booster after handing over the reins in yesterday's sprint to his leadout man, Rick Zabel.

My pick, however, is Dylan Groenewegen. He's been blisteringly fast all month, and yesterday it seemed like he'd finally reached that full race sharpness.


Back in the Tour de France meanwhile, the peloton has 48km to go with the break's advantage currently at 2'12". It's still Lottos NL & Soudal, plus Quick-Step, doing the chasing down.


Ashleigh Moolman was second, with Amanda Spratt in third place.


Here is van Vleuten crossing the finish line at the summit of the Monte Zoncolan. This victory pretty much seals her place as the greatest climber in women's cycling - probably ever.


Meanwhile, over in Italy, Annemiek van Vleuten has won the queen stage of the Giro Rosa. After the mountain timetrial in which she blew away the field, it's looked like her race to lose.


Tolhoek's father, Patrick, also rode in the Tour de France, back in 1990 he finished 123rd on GC.


Antwan Tolhoek has been doing a huge amount of work on the front today, dutifully pulling the peloton along for the benefit of his team leader, yesterday's stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen.


Well, no sight of my pal George, but we're through Gerberoy and we've less than 60km to go now. The gap is steadily falling, it stands at 2'42" now with Groupama moving up to lend some assistance in the chase.


It really is absolutely gorgeous terrain we're in right now...


Peter Sagan makes up some crucial seconds with the now-ubiquitous top-tube aero tuck...


For the first time today, the average speed is beginning to climb. We're still about 20 minutes behind the slowest expected schedule, but at last the peloton is starting to look interested. Stages into Amiens have always historically finished very, very quickly.


The escapists have an advantage of 3'26 on the peloton now. The gap is dwindling ever-so-slowly, thanks to the efforts of Lotto Soudal, Quick-Step and LottoNL. Meanwhile, Peter Sagan is at the back of the bunch after a pee break.


The breakaway is 10km away from Gerberoy where my mate George is waiting to welcome the riders in a pair of skimpy blue hotpants...


But then, when does Sagan ever finish outside the top four?


After the intermediate sprint, Gaviria is 31 points behind Sagan in the green jersey competition. If he wins today in Amiens and Sagan places outside the top four, the Colombian will take the jersey.


It's feeding time in the peloton. Let the barrage of discarded musettes begin.


Take a look at this incredible onboard footage from yesterday's stage...

Or should that be, 'on-baguette' footage...?


Marco Minnaard just declined a musette from his team soigneur there. Amazing, given the boredom he must be experiencing, that he didn't grab a snack to help pass the time if nothing else. I can barely get through a TV ad break without boredom-munching my way through a handful of chocolate digestives.


In about 25km we're going to go through Gerberoy, which is considered one of the most beautiful villages in all of France. Making it slightly less beautiful today is my friend George, who tells me he is 'on the side of the road in a pair of blue short shorts'.

I for one cannot wait to try and spot him. And his blue hotpants.


It's been characteristic of Sagan so far in this race. He's not so much trying to contest the sprints as he's merely marking his rivals, letting them know he's there and that, if he wanted, he could win.


They hit the run-in to the sprint. Groupama lead it out. Sagan jumps onto Demare's wheel with Gaviria tailing him for fifth place. To be honest nobody looked to be going anywhere like full gas, but at least they're showing willing.


Bora and Groupama have materialised at the front of the peloton, clearly Sagan and Demare fancy a wee gallop for these intermediate points.


I tell a lie, they've actually contested that sprint, Minnaard and Grellier, with the Frenchman just pipping his companion with a handy bike throw.


We have the intermediate sprint in 500m. The break will roll through, but when the peloton arrive we may see some minor skirmishing for green jersey points.


100km to go! LottoNL are back on the front of the peloton, with the gap extremely steady.


Meanwhile, on Taylor Phinney's Instagram account...


Richie Porte is being guided back to the peloton after a mechanical, I think. He has compatriot Pat Bevin to help him back through the cars and the pair look very relaxed about the whole thing.


The breakaway's lead has come below four minutes now. 3'58", 103km to go.


Deep stuff from our colleague Jonathan Harris-Bass over on Twitter.


Improbably, the average speed of the stage has actually dropped since our last check. Down to 37kph now!


Grellier takes the point, which concludes today's classified climbs. Tis but a scant 109km left till the finish.


We're 1km from the summit of our second classified climb of the day. Will Minnaard add to his points tally, or will it be Grellier's turn?


Here, from much earlier in the day, is Marcus Burghardt applauding the peloton after he nipped off the front for a comfort break.

I guess the riders have to amuse themselves somehow...

Video - Burghardt applauds peloton from the side of the road after toilet break


Tim 'Break Killer' De Clercq has just finished a turn on the front and he's chomped about a minute off the break's advantage. 4'39" now.


Looks as though Cavendish is experiencing some sort of difficulty with his shoe... he's got the hex key out and is calmly tightening something up.


Dan Martin has punctured and is receiving a new wheel from his team mechanic. Except, they cannot change the wheel and a new bike is called for.

High drama here!


So far this year Wanty-Groupe Gobert have been my wildcard team of the race. Not only have they had two solo breakaways in the same stage (Offredo and Degand both spending time off the front alone yesterday) but they've also put three men in the top ten of a sprint (stage four) and had their Kiwi rider, Dion Smith, in the polka dot jersey.

Today it's Marco Minnaard's turn to do the hard yards, but either Timoth Dupont or Andrea Pasqualon could perform well in today's final sprint. Pasqualon was ninth yesterday.


Quick-Step, Lotto Soudal and BMC are the teams doing the work on the front of the peloton - although 'work' is perhaps a bit generous. All they need to do at this stage is control the break's advantage, which remains steady around 6 minutes.


Hands up who's looking forward to the mountains!


So sedate is the pace, Laurens Ten Dam has only just been collected by the peloton after sitting up 12km ago.


I'm downgrading the mood within the peloton from 'relaxed' to 'downright lackadaisical'. They have averaged 38kph today, which is slower than your local Cat 4 crit would do.


To be fair to Ten Dam, he has the GC interests of his bossman, Tommy 'McWindmills' Dumoulin to think of - particularly tomorrow when the race tackles the pavé of northern France.


Well that is certainly bad breakaway etiquette... Laurens Ten Dam, after initiating the break, has sat up and dropped back to the peloton - leaving poor old Minnaard and Grellier alone up front.

The break has 6 minutes advantage right now, but as a twosome you really wouldn't fancy their chances.


I don't read Flemish, so I'll have to take my Eurosport NL colleague's word for the translation, but these are some incendiary remarks about Marcel Kittel from one of his own team's sports directors.


Amiens, today's finish town, has some considerable pedigree in the Tour de France. It was first featured in 1932 when Andre Leducq bagged one of his six victories that year.

It has also seen wins by Rudi Altig, Mario Cipollini and - most recently - a bloke called Andre Greipel, who beat out Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan in 2015.


Now! It appears we might actually have a breakaway...

After instigation from Laurens Ten Dam (Sunweb), Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) and Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) have bridged over to form a break of three. That makes two Dutchies and a Frenchman in the leading trio.

Not quite the super-Gallic mega-break we'd hoped for, but a damn sight better than the one-man efforts of yesterday.


Ah yes, I should've said this at the top of the day... I am not, in fact, Felix Lowe, who is off at a wedding in France of all places. I am Tom Owen, and I'll be with you today and tomorrow, bit the big man back in the hotseat where he belongs on Tuesday.


The race situation right now is what you might describe as 'relaxed'. The riders are chatting merrily, looking for all the world like a bunch of touring cyclists trying to decide where they'll stop today for lunch.


And of course, it is the 14th of July, Bastille Day. A stage win today would mean a massive amount to the French riders and fans, but who is capable of delivering such a victory?

Well, you'd have to look at Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FDJ) as the most likely Frenchman to do well in a bunch gallop. Christophe Laporte of Cofidis is also in with a shout.

You would also hope that there'll be a strong French presence in the breakaway (should one ever form today).


From one rider very much in the ascendancy, to another who is somewhat struggling to refind his past brilliance. Mark Cavendish spoke frankly yesterday of not quite having the speed to compete with the likes of Bora-Hansgrohe and Quick-Step Floors.

The Manxman has been well off the pace in this year's sprint stages, with yesterday's 10th place his highest finish thus far.

He spoke to Eurosport's Matt Stephens yesterday after the sprint.


Yesterday's stage was won by Dylan Groenewegen, the Dutch sprinter riding for LottoNL-Jumbo. Despite showing some blistering form in the races before the Tour, the 25-year-old had been fairly quiet up until the finale yesterday in Chartres.

He put this down to taking a little while to ride his legs into condition - telling us yesterday that he's finally feeling at full-speed. A frightening prospect for his sprinting rivals.

Here are the key moments from yesterday.

Video - Key Moments, Stage 7 - Groenewegen powers to win


The riders rolled through the kilometre zero some minutes ago, but as yet there is no break to speak of - barring a short sortie off the front from Bora-Hansgrohe's Marcus Burghardt.

It turned out the burly German was merely looking for a shady spot to take an early comfort break, so he's safely ensconced back within the bosom of the bunch.


Well, good morning everyone! We're live for this, stage eight of the Tour de France.

We're on our way to Amiens, with a mere 180km standing between the peloton and the finish line. It should be one for the sprinters again, barring any breakaway heroics.