Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) won the eighth stage of the Tour de France by outsprinting Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) into the ski station of Avoriaz, above the Alpine town of Morzine.
The pair escaped from a select group of riders in the final kilometre of the stage, gaining a handful of seconds on other overall rivals such as Alberto Contador (Astana), Cadel Evans (BMC) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas).
With yellow jersey Sylvan Chavenel losing over 10 minutes on the stage, Evans has now moved into the overall lead, 20 seconds ahead of Schleck, with Contador just over a minute down.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins finished 18th after apparently cracking and getting dropped from the front group in the final four kilometres. He was shepherded across the line by team mate Thomas Lovkvist over one and a half minutes back. He now sits fourteenth in the overall classification, 2-45 down.
But if Wiggins had a bad day, Lance Armstrong’s was far worse. The American got dropped on the third to last climb after having suffered two crashes earlier in the stage.
That he then got tangled up in a third spill as he chased behind, was the final indignity of what he described as “just a bad day”. By the end of the stage he had lost 11-45 and all hope of being an overall contender in his last Tour de France.
Aside from the early spills and the formation of a seven man breakaway at 28km, the action started to hot up 50km from the line, on the first category Col de la Ramaz. Wiggins must have been feeling good at this point because Sky had Juan Antonio Flecha and Lovkvist driving on the front.
When news broke of Armstrong (who’d not long finished chasing back on after his second crash on a rounadabout) being dropped 5km from the summit, the Saxo Bank and Astana teams quickly chipped in with the effort too.
Following the descent from the Ramaz and the third category drag up to Les Gets, Armstrong was caught in yet another accident by a rider being handed up some food. Already off the back of the main group by a considerable margin, he showed a definite lack of urgency to get going again. Sporting cuts and ripped clothing, he already knew his overall ambitions were over.
On the climb up from the Morzine the main pack of contenders were driven by Astana. An attack from Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez reined in the last of the day’s early break but he too was brought back.
It was in the closing 5km that Wiggins started to show his frailty, slowly drifting to the back of the ever shrinking group before he lost a couple of lengths on them with 3km to go. This gap then suddenly extended and Wiggins knew he was in damage limitation territory.
“There came a point I just couldn’t afford to keep hanging onto that group without completely exploding,” he explained afterwards.
At the front of the group Kreuziger was the next to try his luck with a solo attack, but Contador was wise to it. Robert Gesink then made a darting move down the left with 1.7km to go and was joined by Sanchez. But Contador and Schleck then pulled the 13 rider group back up to this too.
It was after the kilometre flag that Schleck made his move and Contador clearly couldn’t respond. However Sanchez was able to jump across and looked sure to win the sprint.
Moving to the front and powering towards the line, the Olympic Champion appered to have it in the bag. But surprisingly Schleck came round him again and took his first ever Tour stage win.
Although Evans was among the contenders to lose ten seconds to Schleck, he admitted he was “happy to finish with Contador today.”
Tour de France 2010, stage eight: Stationdes Rousses – Morzine Avoriaz, 189km
1. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank 4h 54m 11s
2. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel st
3. Robert Gesink (Ned ) Rabobank at 10sec
4. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas
5. Alberto Contador (Esp) Astana
6. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC
7. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack
9. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas
10. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank all st
19. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 1-45
49. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 6-30
61. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 11-45
142. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 27-49
144. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 27-49
155. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 31-43
174. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 32-34
180. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 32-34
183. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 32-34
General classification after stage eight
1. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC 37h 59m 29s
2. Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank at 20sec
3. Alberto Contador (Spa) Astana at 1-01
4. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 1-03
5. Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank at 1-10
6. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin Transitions at 1-11
7. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas at 1-45
8. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Radioshack at 2-14
9. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel at 2-15
10. Robert Gesink (Ned ) Rabobank at 2-31
12. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Cervelo at 2-40
13. Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Doimo at 2-41
14. Bradley Wiggins (GB) Team Sky at 2-45
39. Lance Armstrong (USA) RadioShack at 13-26
69. Geraint Thomas (GB) Team Sky at 30-51
83. Charly Wegelius (GB) Omega Pharma-Lotto at 41-11
117. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Transitions at 50-10
135. Steve Cummings (GB) Team Sky at 55-59
149. Mark Cavendish (GB) HTC-Columbia at 1-01-23
159. Daniel Lloyd (GB) Cervelo at 1-06-53
160. Jeremy Hunt (GB) Cervelo at 1-07-22
Points classification: Thor Hushovd (Nor) Cervelo
Mountains classification: Jerome Pineau (Fra) Quick Step
Best young rider: Andy Schleck (Lux) Saxo Bank
Not happy: Lance Armstrong’s poor luck continued with another crash-marred stage
Bradley Wiggins (front) in the group containing Alberto Contador (l) and Cadel Evans
Andy Schleck launches the winning attack
Cadel Evans takes the race lead
Tour de France 2010: Latest news
Sky’s objective clear ahead of Tour’s high mountains
The Feed Zone (July 10): Tour de France news and views
Thomas: ‘Yellow jersey would be unbelievable
Analysis: The role of Renshaw
Cavendish strikes back in Tour de France
Thomas happy with Tour’s white jersey; but says ‘All for Brad’
Wiggins crashes on Tour stage start
Cavendish and Farrar return to top
Cavendish keeps up fight for first Tour win
Sky delivers Boasson Hagen to third without pressure
Tour de France 2010: Stage reports
Stage seven: Chavanel wins stage and takes overall as Thomas drops out of Tour’s white
Stage six: Cavendish makes it two as Tour hots up
Stage five: Cavendish wins his first stage of Tour
Stage four: Petacchi wins into Reims
Stage three: Hushovd takes dramatic win; Thomas second on stage and GC
Stage three live coverage: As it happened
Stage two: Comeback man Chavanel takes victory in Spa
Stage one: Petacchi wins in Brussels as bunch left in tatters
Prologue: Cancellara pips Martin to win
Tour de France 2010: Photos
Stage seven photo gallery
Stage six photo gallery
Stage five photo gallery
Stage four photo gallery
Stage three photo gallery
Stage two photo gallery
Stage one gallery
Prologue photo gallery
Tour de France 2010: Videos
Stage seven video highlights
Stage six video highlights
Stage five video highlights
Stage four video highlights
Stage three video highlights
Stage two video highlights
Stage one video highlights
Prologue video highlights
Tour de France 2010: Race guide
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index
Official start list, with race numbers
Brits at the Tour 2010
Tout team guide
Tour jerseys: What they are and what they mean
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins