Chris Froome retained his overall lead in the first day in the mountains at the Tour de France

The Tour de France 2017 really came to life on the eighth stage of the race in the Jura Mountains, with Lilian Calmejane delivering a precious stage victory from the breakaway for home team Direct Energie.

The 24-year-old French rider attacked with 6km to go on the final category one climb and around 18km to the finish.

He quickly established a gap from his three remaining breakaway riders, with Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data) immediately dropped and Nicolas Roche (BMC) the first to take off in pursuit of him ahead of Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo).

But Irishman Roche was unable to bridge the gap which was at around 10 seconds, and eventually dropped back.

Things then started to look good for Calmejane as he rode powerfully up the climb of Montee de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes (11.4km at 6.4 per cent).

Gesink was the next to pursue Calmejane, and came in within a whisker of bridging to him with 3km to go on the climb, but slowed and the gap held to 11 seconds at the summit.


Watch: Tour de France 2017 stage eight highlights


There was then around 12km remaining for Calmejane to hold off Gesink, with largely flat sections on the way to the finish in Stations des Rousses, though it featured some stinging little climbs that would test the riders having covered a brutal 180km of the stage already.

And it was on one of these small climbs that it looked like Calmejane might falter, as he appeared to suffer cramp with 4.8km to go.

His gap to Gesink had risen to over 30 seconds, and as he shook his legs and made it to the top of the climb, he was able to recover and roll a smaller gear over the remaining kilometres to make it home safely.

Gesink was able to hold off the chasing Sky-led peloton at around a minute behind to take second.

It’s Calmejane’s second career Grand Tour win after taking a victory in the Vuelta a España last year, but celebrates a debut Tour de France appearance with a stage victory.

Behind, Sky had controlled the peloton all day to bring Chris Froome home safely and defend his overall lead. Fourth place Dan Martin (Quick-Step) made a late attack to try and take some time, but was quickly reeled in and the GC situation remains the same.

Lilian Calmejane on front of the break on stage eight of the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: Yuzuru Sunada

How it happened

It was a ferocious start to the eighth stage, with the first 40km covered in around 50 minutes.

With a huge amount of riders eyeing a breakaway victory on the stage, no-one was letting anyone go easily with a number of permutations of riders heading up the rode.

But with 70km gone, a break still hadn’t properly got away, however a selection 50 riders had moved up ahead of the main peloton led by Team Sky.

That took another 10km to go to settle down properly, and as the race progressed over the various climbs of the day, small groups moved out front and were reeled in before an nine man selection finally distanced the other riders.

Greg Van Avermaet, Nicolas Roche (BMC), Jan Bakelants (AG2R La Mondiale), Michael Valgren (Astana),Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Warren Barguil (Sunweb) and Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac) were the riders to get away, and they managed to hold a gap of 1-30 on the peloton going towards the finally climb.

A breakaway tries to get away on stage eight of the Tour de France (ASO)

Behind, Sky continued to patrol the front of the peloton and utilised their team well, having put Sergio Henao, Mikel Landa and Christian Knees in the break and were able to drop back and help the rest of the team.

There was a scare for yellow jersey Froome on the descent of the penultimate categorised climb, as he ran off the road having taken a sharp corner with too much speed.

He was uninjured however, and continued on behind his Sky team-mates safely to the finish.

The peloton never looked interested in closing the gap and the breakaway were set to fight it out on the final climb.

It was then the final four were able to get away from their tired companions in the break group, with Calmejane able to attack on the steepest slopes to grab a maiden Tour de France victory.

The Tour de France continues on Sunday with a 181.5km route from Nantua to Chambéry; a brutal stage with seven categorised climbs, three of them hors categorie.

Results

Tour de France 2017, stage eight: Dole to Station des Rousses (187.5km)

1. Lilian Calmejane (Fra) Direct Energie, in 4-30-29
2. Robert Gesink (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo, at 37s
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Wanty – Groupe Gobert, at 50s
4. Nicolas Roche (Irl) BMC Racing Team
5. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Orica-Scott
6. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
7. Michael Valgren Andersen (Den) Astana Pro Team
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe
9. Nathan Brown (USA) Cannondale-Drapac
10. Romain Hardy (Fra) Team Fortuneo – Oscaro, all same time

Chris Froome on stage eight of the 2017 Tour de France

General Classification after stage eight

1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 33-19-10
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 12s
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 14s
4. Dan Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 25s
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 39s
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott at 43s
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 47s
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 52s
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 54s
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 1-01