Alaphilippe goes into yellow, 23 seconds ahead of Ciccone with Pinot leaping up into third.
Mâcon - Saint-Étienne
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Trentin was sixth, Meurisse seventh, Van Avermaet in eighth, then Bernal and Thomas rounding out the top ten.
Matthews took the sprint for fourth, with Sagan on his shoulder and the Ineos duo of Thomas and Bernal just behind.
It was Pinot who nicked second from Alaphilippe there.
Wow. About 12 seconds there between Pinot and Alaphilippe and the ragtag bunch of GC riders and sprinters.
Thomas De Gendt wins the stage!
Pinot and Alaphilippe stand to gain around 15 seconds on what remains of the peloton.
De Gendt takes the flamme rouge!
11 seconds for De Gendt now on the Gallic pair.
Of these two, Pinot looks more ragged than Alaphilippe. They have crested the last little rise and they must be able to smell the sweat on De Gendt's jersey they're so close.
De Gendt has 18 seconds on Alaphilippe and Pinot.
And Ciccone is doing the chasing now. He's putting it all out there to hold onto the maillot jaune.
Four kilometres between Thomas De Gendt and glory. He's flagging, though, while Alaphilippe is riding like a man possessed.
It's not looking good for the king of the breakaway.
Ciccone is not giving up. He's fourth wheel in what remains of the peloton.
Alaphilippe is in virtual yellow right now.
Pinot and Alaphilippe are sharing the work here brilliantly. De Gendt is 30 seconds up the road as Matthews decides to put his last support rider on the front.
What an incredibly French finale to this stage the day before Bastille Day. If either of these riders were to win, this would send L'Equipe into raptures.
That's a lot of £££s worth of bicycle...
He and Thibaut Pinot have skipped clear of the peloton and opened a small gap. Alaphillipe gets a time bonus of six seconds for being second over the climb. The two Frenchman are fighting hard to get clear.
Big, big effort there from Thomas but he's now back into the bunch. De Gendt has 40 seconds as he takes max points on the seventh and final categorised climb.
Amid the chaos, Thomas De Gendt has attacked Alessandro De Marchi. He has 53 seconds on the peloton and 20 already on his erstwhile breakaway partner.
Thomas will get back in here. He can see the back of the peloton and he has one domestique remaining. It looks to be the indefatigable Luke Rowe.
Ineos are chasing hard to get Thomas back in.
And the whole Ineos team have crashed! We've just seen a shot of a totally smashed Pinarello at the roadside.
Geraint Thomas is behind the peloton and EF refuse to let up on gas!
So the Twitterati have spoken and the overwhelming consensus from your tweets is either Woods or Bettiol is feeling awesome and fancies the stage win.
For me, this is a tactical blunder when they could be saving these matches for the GC fight to come next week. Perhaps the men in pink are just super, super confident.
Sagan now has a jersey full of water bottles and is doing service for his team mates. What an athlete. He was dropped half an hour ago.
Could it be that they're burning some matches in the search for a stage win through Alberto Bettiol?
I for one cannot fathom this move from EF Education First. Why pull so hard at this point in the stage? They have Mike Woods as a good bet for this sort of stage, but he'll be heavily marked by the other GC hopefuls.
Answers on a Twitter-card, please!
The final climb is a Category 3 and it comes at 12km to go. After that it's all downhill to the finish. If De Gendt and De Marchi can make it over the top with 30 seconds I back them to finish.
The gap to the leaders is under two minutes for the first time since the opening kilometres. Dare they begin to believe?
Lots of the riders who might have contested this stage are looking a bit secondhand at the moment. Matthews is dangling at the rear of the peloton, while Wout Van Aert is off the back entirely.
This is going to come down to the wire. With 35km to go, De Marchi and De Gendt have 2'23" on the peloton. EF Education First are hitting it hard.
Good news SagFans™️, the green jersey is back on the tail of the peloton. He's not getting any help from his Bora Hansgrohe team right now though, which makes me think they're backing another rider on their team for the win today...
Ciccone and Porte are the only two Trek-Segafredo riders remaining in the peloton. It doesn't look good for them holding onto the yellow jersey tonight.
Simon Clarke of EF Education First has joined the peloton pulling party and they've reduced the gap to 2'59". First time it has been less than three minutes since this morning.
Polka dot jersey Tim Wellens has been dropped. Meanwhile, his team mate Thomas De Gendt grabs another five points and goes into second on that classification. Those Lotto lads just love a red spot.
Wout van Aert is still in the game. With Sagan on the ropes, could we see the Grand Tour debutant notch a fourth Jumbo Visma stage win?
That De Marchi mini-crash
Astana have burned some of their domestiques and caused havoc among the sprinters, but as far as the GC goes, everyone who matters is still present and correct. Not really sure what to make of that move by the boys in light blue.
The gap to the break is 3'30".
Sagan is dropped but he's just crested the climb and if he can descend onto the back of the peloton he might just get enough time to recover.
Pello Bilbao takes it up at the front of the peloton and this pace is putting Peter Sagan in major difficulty. The Slovakian is battling hard though.
There are a lot of riders being dropped now. Some domestiques, but also some punchier riders who might have liked their chances in today's finale. Darryl Impey, for one. Sagan is about five places from the back of the peloton.
De Gendt and De Marchi have 900m to the summit of the Cote d'Aveize.
Ben King and Niki Terpstra are now a full two minutes down on the leaders. They look to be taking it easy rather than burying themselves to regain contact.
There are six sky blue Astana jerseys at the head of the peloton now. They are setting a pace that is keeping the gap around four minutes, with their main objective to protect their leader Jakob Fuglsang. Now would be a really bad time to get caught behind a crash.
Luke Rowe, meanwhile, has pullled the plug. His day is done and he will drift back to the grupetto, ready to fight again tomorrow no doubt.
De Gendt sits up and waits for his pal Alessandro. He knows their odds are better as a duo. The two riders have 3'58" on the peloton and two classified climbs remaining.
Close one! Alessandro De Marchi has just overcooked a bend and it almost ended very badly for the Italian journeyman. That's the fatigue of four hours in the break coming into play...
It's gone from a puncheur's stage to a GC battle. At least that's how it seems right now with Astana drilling the descent and Ineos lined out behind them. They were obviously concerned about potential attacks over the Croix de Part.
Four of Julian Alaphilippe's Deceuninck teammates are in the grupetto already, so it might be that the Frenchman has to freelance his way through the final.
Astana lead the peloton over the crest of the Croix de Part. De Gendt, who else?, took max points with De Marchi in second wheel.
Movistar and Astana have taken things up at the head of the race, which shows you just how tough this race has been today. Sunweb look to have burned all their matches.
Up ahead, Terpstra and King have teamed up now as a chase duo behind the power pairing of De Marchi and De Gendt. It's 3'30" back to the bunch.
We're hearing more news of dropped riders, with Dylan Teuns possibly being left behind the peloton.
Christophe Laporte abandons the Tour de France.
Interesting change of complexion at the front of the peloton. Ineos are now very prominent, Sunweb are driving harder and Warren Barguil in his nifty new French national champion's kit is coming up to the front as well.
Terpstra is dropped from the break. He has 800m to the summit, after which he might be able to get back on.
First signs of weakness from Terpstra who is just losing the wheel a little bit. Lutsenko, meanwhile, is making his way back through the cars to the tail of the peloton.
He's another rider who could do well on today's finish, provided he doesn't have to babysit his team's GC man, Jakob Fuglsang.
Just the smallest of mechanicals for Julian Alaphilippe there as he slips to the back of the peloton. He's still pedalling on, but looks to be calling for a bike change.
Alexey Lutsenko also seems to have an issue with his bike.
The break is on the lower slopes of the Cote de la Croix de Part.
It's a Category 2 climb, just under 5km and with a tough but not tortuous average gradient of 7.9%.
If a member of the break is going to try and go solo, we could see them use this climb as a launchpad.
From the bunch, the three favourites are Alaphilippe, Sagan and Michael Matthews. Jumbo-Visma's Wout Van Aert might also fancy it, if he's allowed to ride for himself rather than protecting their GC hopeful, Steven Kruijswijk.
We are edging ever closer to the finish in St Etienne and while the gap to the break hasn't recovered, it has stabilised again at three minutes. Is that because the escapees are trying harder or because the peloton is happier with the gap, though?
Of these four, Thomas De Gendt looks the spriteliest, while Niki Terspstra has been quietly rolling through and letting the other riders take any KOM points. Both men are capable of a long solo attack, but they will want to stick with the break for at least a little while longer.
Deceuninck have rolled their big gun up to the front to add to the peloton's firepower. Step forward domestique extraordinaire Kasper Asgreen.
A long trundle downhill now for the riders. The next climb, the Category 2 Cote de la Croix de Part, begins at 67km to go.
In the break and the peloton - and indeed here in the Eurosport Comms Bunker - everyone is taking the opportunity to get some food onboard.
At the halfway point in the race, you'd have to be very optimistic to bet on the breakaway. With just four riders - albeit super strong ones - you just can't see them defying the odds.
Those names in case you're just joining us are Niki Terpstra (Total Direct Energie), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Alessandro De Marchi (CCC Team) and Ben King (Dimension Data).
Under 100km to go in this stage!
De Gendt powers through yet another KOM and takes another full set of points. By my count he's added 18 to his tally today.
I for one can think of nuthing else...
Not a good day for Christophe Laporte. The Tour de France GPS data is showing him as 18 minutes down on the peloton. You have to think he's unlikely to make it inside the time cut today.
We are on the Cote d'Affoux.
Thomas De Gendt is having a bit of a powwow with Alessandro De Marchi. It looks for all the world like he's calling into question the work rate of the other riders in the break.
That's a bit rich given that De Gendt made life as hard as possible for De Marchi when the Italian was trying to bridge the gap to the break this morning.
Plenty of Lotto Soudal riders there to keep Caleb Ewan company at the back of the pack.
Thomas is back in the peloton. It looked to be a minor technical problem rather than anything properly dramatic. He was guided safely back to the bunch by fellow Welshman Luke Rowe. Their Ineos teammate Dylan van Baarle is at the front of the peloton trying to keep the pace down a bit.
Thomas De Gendt kicks hard to drive the pace as he leads the break under the KOM banner. A calculated effort designed to test the legs of his companions, or just Thomas De Gendt doing Thomas De Gendt things?
Andre Greipel (Arkea Samsic) is the latest sprinter to tumble out of the back of the peloton.
A first sighting of that man Alaphilippe near the head of the peloton. The Frenchman is climbing comfortably, the very embodiment of souplesse.
And Geraint Thomas is off the back of the peloton!
Ben King grits his teeth as he leads the break onto the super-steep ramps of the day's third Category 2 climb.
This is the eighth stage of the race, with two more days before the first rest day. You have to imagine all the riders' legs are feeling pretty sore right now.
I think the Col de la Croix Paquet is going to be decisive for the break. Right now, with their gap tumbling steadily, they have to switch something up if they want to stay clear. Will we see one of Thomas De Gendt or De Marchi go solo? Or will they collectively redouble their efforts?
The peloton is passing under the KOM banner now, Chad Haga and Marcus Burghardt have whittled the break's advantage down to four minutes. They are very wary of the strength of the riders up the road and don't want to give them too much slack.
Thomas De Gendt once again takes maximum points through the KOM at Croix de Thel. He adds five more points and jumps to fourth in the classification. Nobody else in the lead group seems particularly bothered. They are all 100% focused on taking the stage win.
We're seeing Dylan Groenewegen losing contact with the peloton. Yesterday's stage winner will join fellow sprinter, Caleb Ewan, in the gruppetto now and just focus on getting home inside the time cut.
Ok, the next climb is already being climbed and to be honest, it doesn't stop from here until the finish. Some, including EF's MIke Woods, have compared today to a mini version of Liege-Bastogne-Liege.
The break is 2km from the summit of the Col de la Croix de Thel. After which they take on the Category 2 Col de la Croix Paquet - a super-sharp ramp of 9% for 2.1km - almost immediately.
Still a long way to go in this stage and at the moment it's finely balanced. The gap for the breakaway is 4'45" and they are working really well together, but the teams invested in the chase have plenty of firepower to deploy.
One man of whom we've seen absolutely nothing up to now is Julian Alaphilippe of Deceuninck Quick-Step. He's worn the yellow jersey for a couple of days already and has said to the press that he has a plan to get it back. A 10-second time bonus for the stage win would be enough to catapult the swashbuckling Frenchman back into the overall race lead just in time for Bastille Day.
And they're over the top. Thomas De Gendt takes maximum KOM points across the crest, which not only furthers his own cause in that competition, it also keeps the points away from potential rivals of his teammate, Tim Wellens.
So, with a breakaway that is no threat to the GC, Trek-Segafredo have eased up in their pace-setting duties and the teams of the puncheur climbers have come to the front.
Michael Matthews' Team Sunweb domestique, Chad Haga is trading pulls with Bora Hansgrohe's Marcus Burghardt at the moment. They're invested in bringing this break back so their leaders can contest the finale.
And we're climbing for real! The break is looking good as they tackle the early slopes - this really is a pedigree breakaway.
He have about 4km before the breakaway begins the first of today's seven classified climbs. It's the Category 2 Col de la Croix Montmain, a 6km test at 7% gradient.
Well that was weird. About 2km from the intermediate sprint, Sonny Colbrelli summoned most of the Bahrain Merida team to the front of the peloton to give him a leadout, before completely capitulating in the sprint itself and coming in two places behind Sagan.
You do wonder if his heart was really in that and whether he actually believes he can close that 56-point lead to Sagan.
Terpstra takes maximum points through the intermediate sprint. It means almost nothing, in the grand scheme of things.
When the peloton comes through, we may see a minor dust-up over the remaining green jersey points. Anything to chip away at that impressive 56-point lead, eh?
Yellow jersey Giuilio Ciccone's teammates, Koen De Kort and Toms Skujins, are sitting on the front of the peloton, keeping the breakaway at around the five-minute mark.
There's nobody really to worry about up there. De Marchi is the highest on GC at a mere 29'38" down on Ciccone's lead. This is more about their obligations to the maillot jaune than any real concerns over GC.
Bike racing ain't pretty.
Here's Tejay on his decision to withdraw.
A quick reminder that Thomas De Gendt is the breakaway.
The breakaway have relented just a little bit in order to let Alessandro de Marchi catch up and make this jazz trio into a rock four-piece. The Italian CCC rider can see them now.
Couple of kms to the intermediate sprint point for the day.
Well the opening of today's stage promised much, but delivered relatively little. It had looked like being a nightmare day to control for Trek Segafredo, but as it transpires, they've barely had to push on the pedals thus far.
The gap to our trio of leaders is ballooning out as they race towards the first intermediate sprint at Cercié en Beaujolais. De Marchi is turning himself inside out to cross the gap and is at 36 seconds down right now.
The peloton is 3'24" back on the leaders.
A few more tentative attacks here now. Alessandro de Marchi is giving it a bash. After all, if it hasn't got T.D.G and A.D.M, is it even a B.R.E.A.K?
Meanwhile, the rapid pace is putting some riders in trouble. Yoann Offredo is looking a bit peaky and we hear from commentary that he is unwell. He could likely miss the time cut on a savage day like this.
Looks like Mads Wurtz couldn't hang with the pace. He's dropped back from the breakaway.
This is a surprisingly small escape group and the peloton seems largely to have accepted it. Nobody up ahead is a serious GC contender, but it's odd that more of the stage-hunting squads haven't given it a go.
Ben King, Niki Terpstra and Mads Wurtz are up there with the big ole Belgian.
As sure as night follows day, the flag has dropped and Thomas De Gendt attacks.
At the front of the bunch, practically touching the bumper of the commissaire's car, is Jesus Herrada of Cofidis.
The Spanish climber has been in flying form of late and must fancy his chances in the King of the Mountains competition.
Also looking interested is the current holder of that jersey, Tim Wellens.
Trek Segafredo, who have the yellow jersey on the shoulders of Giulio Ciccone, will have to police the early part of the stage to ensure nobody gets up the road that might pose a threat to their race leader.
Ciccone is not, of course, the 'real' leader of that team's GC campaign. They have Aussie superstar Richie Porte here and looking to do what he's always promised was possible...
They peloton is rolling relaxedly through the streets of Mâcon right now. They'll do this until they hit kilometre zero in about ten minutes time - and you can bet that as soon as the flag drops we'll see a flurry of attacks.
That's because on paper today is tailor made for a breakaway win.
Here's something for the detail obsessives, a very comprehensive preview of the day's stage in the form of a Twitter thread from British cycling writer, Will Newton.
If you like your daily dose of Tour trivia in neatly snackable format, do give him a follow.
Some sad overnight news for any US cycling fans out there. Tejay van Garderen of EF Education First has withdrawn from the race, after breaking his thumb in a crash early in yesterday's stage.
The Coloradan was looking in great form up until now and would have been a fantastic ally for Rigoberto Uran as the race hit the high mountains.
And here is some incredible onboard footage from yesterday, which really does give you a sense of just how terrifying it must be to be an elite sprinter.
Yesterday saw Dylan Groenewegen return to winning ways after a subdued start to his Tour de France. It's unlikely the Dutchman will double up today though, the stage does feature a downhill finish but the winner will have to be someone with decent climbing legs.
Good morning mes amis! It's another day at the world's biggest annual sporting event and once again we're heading for the hills. It looks to be quite a tough one as we head from Mâcon in Burgundy to the city of Saint-Étienne in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.