Tour de France 2011 stage eight photo gallery by Graham Watson>>

Rui Costa took the win today as the Tour de France hit the mountains for the first time. The Portuguese rider had been in the break all day and held on by just 12 seconds as Philippe Gilbert jumped out of the peloton in a last gasp attempt to win.

The win for Movistar in the Massif Central puts a shine on what has been a wretched year for them so far. In May, their main Tour contender, Xavier Tondo died in a freak accident at his home when his garage door fell on him. Then at the Tour of Switzerland Mauricio Soler suffered horrific injuries in a crash. The Colombian remains in a serious condition and may never race again.

Without a genuine leader the Spanish team has been putting men in breaks throughout the race’s first week, and finally it paid off. Costa was the only man who could live with American prodigy Tejay Van Garderen on the category two Col de la Croix Saint-Robert and then made his strength apparent on the final climb to Super-Besse Sancy.

Costa only just held on as the favourites left it late to start racing. For a while it looked as if Alexandre Vinokourov was going to steal the show as he attacked on the Saint-Robert and by the two kilometre to go point was alone, just 17 seconds behind Costa. His time over what was left of the peloton was enough to put him in yellow.

It wasn’t to be for the controversial Kazakh as finally was saw the GC men get stuck in. But what we saw wasn’t a show of strength, but a lacklustre attempt at attacking by a group of riders who look nothing like the men they were just last year.

Three times Contador attacked, but each time he was immediately looking over his shoulder, a sign that he wasn’t committing fully to the attack. It certainly looked like he was trying as he leant forward and rocked his shoulders from side to side.

Contador’s efforts lasted no longer than seven or eight pedal revolutions before he was sat back down in his saddle. He may yet come in to form, but if this is as good as he can be it’s hard to see how he will make up the time he needs.

Luckily for him Andy Schleck looks no better. The Luxemberger lacks a killer instinct and simply followed everyone else, his brother looks no better. Here was a chance to grab a few seconds, but no one was willing to take it on.

Once again the strongest GC man seemed to be Cadel Evans as he won the sprint for third, albeit without gaining any time. The biggest mistake he may have made was putting his team on the front all day to chase the nine man group over these famously tight, twisty and heavy roads.

Garmin-Cervelo were happy to let BMC take on the work load Evans’ team obviously thought they would take over the yellow jersey today. What they hadn’t factored in was an amazing ride by Thor Hushovd. The race leader, a former bunch sprinter and now classics rider, stayed with the leaders over the climbs and finished with the leaders.

Green intrigue

Philippe Gilbert’s second place on the stage put him back in the lead of the green jersey competition, and we now have the compelling prospect of two completely different riders, Gilbert and Cavendish, going for green. Gilbert went for the intermediate sprint and took more points at the finish to take a 34 point lead over Cavendish.

Rojas is in second and should remain in the hunt, but no other pure sprinters are currently in contention.

Team Sky have wasted no time in reassessing their goals as they put Xabier Zandio in the break, then, towards the end of the stage Juan Antonio Flecha got up the road in the dangerous looking break that contained Vinokourov. Geraint Thomas, who is now the focus of the British team in this years race, finished with the leaders, once again demonstrating what an incredibly versatile rider he is.

Result
Tour de France 2011, stage eight: Aigurande – Super-Besse Sancy, 189km

1. Rui Costa (Por) Movistar 4-36-46hrs
2. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 12 sec
3. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 15 sec
4. Samuel Sanchez (Esp) Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
6. Dries Devenysn (Bel) Quick Step
7. Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre ISD
8. Alberto Contador (Esp) Saxo Bank
9. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek
10. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek all at same time
British
23. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 15 sec
26. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 26 sec
170. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 19-59
180. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky at 19-59

General classification after stage eight

1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Garmin-Cervelo
2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC at 1 sec
3. Frank Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 4 sec
4. Andréas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack at 10 sec
5. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard-Trek at 12 sec
6. Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard-Trek at 12 sec
7. Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad at 13 sec
8. Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad at 13 sec
9. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Cervelo at 19 sec
10. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma Lotto at 30 sec
British
35. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 3-18 min
113. Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad at 25-50 min
118. Ben Swift (GBr) Team Sky 26-40 min

BMC Racing chase, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

BMC lead the chase

Tejay Van Garderen and Xabier Zandio in escape, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

Tejay Van Garderen and Xabier Zandio in escape group

Geraint Thomas, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

Geraint Thomas finished in the overall contenders’ group

Philippe Gilbert attacks, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

Philippe Gilbert attacks in the final kilometres

Alberto Contador attacks, Tour de France 2011, stage eight
Alberto Contador (right) attacks, and is followed closely by Andy Schleck (left) and Cadel Evans

Rui Da Costa wins, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

Rui Costa takes the win

Thor Hushovd on podium, Tour de France 2011, stage eight

Thor Hushovd kept hold of the race lead

Tour de France 2011: Related links

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Tour de France 2011: Latest news

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Wiggins crashes out of Tour

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Tour de France 2011: Teams, riders, start list
Tour de France 2011: Official start list
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Tour de France 2011: Team guide

Tour de France 2011: Stage reports

Stage seven: Cavendish wins but Wiggins crashes out of Tour

Stage six: Boasson Hagen takes Sky’s first Tour de France win

Stage five: Cavendish wins in Cap Frehel

Stage four: Evans edges out Contador on the Mur-de-Bretagne

Stage three: Farrar sprints to first Tour victory in Redon

Stage two: Garmin win team time trial to put Hushovd in yellow

Stage one: Gilbert blasts to victory as Tour gets off to spectacular start

Tour de France 2011: Highlights videos

Stage seven video highlights

Stage six video highlights

Video: Erik Zabel’s role as Cavendish’s sprint advisor

Stage five video highlights

Video: The ride of Philippe Gilbert at the Tour de France

Stage four video highlights

Stage three video highlights

Stage two video highlights

Stage one video highlights

Tour de France 2011: Photo galleries

Stage seven photo gallery by Graham Watson


Tour de France 2011 wallpaper gallery


Stage six photo gallery by Graham Watson


Stage five photo gallery by Graham Watson

Stage four photo gallery by Andy Jones

Stage four photo gallery by Graham Watson


Stage three photo gallery by Graham Watson


Stage two photo gallery by Andy Jones


Stage two photo gallery by Graham Watson


Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson


Tour de France 2011 team time trial training photo gallery by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team press conferences by Andy Jones

Tour de France 2011 team presentation by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2011: Live text coverage
Tour de France 2011 LIVE: CW’s text coverage schedule
Stage seven live text coverage

Tour de France 2011: Archive videos
Video: 2003 Centenary Tour
Video: Lance Armstrong retrospective
Video: Behind the scenes at the Tour
Video: Guerini’s 1999 stage win
Video: Thrills and spills at the Tour
Video: Armstrong in 1999
Video: The Indurain years
Video: Ladies of the Tour
Video: Best of bizarre

Tour de France 2011: Archive articles

1999 Tour de France stage two: Passage du Gois causes chaos

Tour de France 2011: TV schedule
British Eurosport Tour de France 2011 TV schedule
ITV4 Tour de France 2011 TV schedule

Tour de France 2011: Related links
Tour de France: The jerseys, what they are and what they mean
Potted history of the Tour de France
The closest Tours in history
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Wiggins
Tour de France 2010: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

Tour de France 2011: Older news items
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2011 Tour de France teams named
Tour de France 2011: Route details
The mountains of the 2011 Tour de France
Cavendish challenging for up to eight stages in 2011 Tour
Wiggins and Team Sky confident but not talking of Tour podium
Contador faces tough questions in pre-Tour press conference
Brits in the Tour de France 2011
UCI and AFLD collaborate on Tour de France dope tests
Contador confirmed for Tour de France
Evans set for Tour de France win
UCI says ‘respect Contador at Tour de France’
Contador confirms taking part in Tour de France
Bookies slash odds on Wiggins winning Tour

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