Frenchman Sylvain Calzati was the first rider to win a stage of the 2006 Tour from a breakaway on Sunday.
The Ag2r rider was part of a five-rider break and then powered clear alone, 28km from the finish to give France their second stage win of the Tour just hours before France played Italy in the World Cup final.
Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas) and Patrice Halgand (Crédit Agricole) were the only other survivors of the move but finished 2-05 behind Calzati.
Robbie McEwen (Davitamon) won the bunch sprint for fourth to extend his lead in the points competition, as Tom Boonen (Quick Step) was again well beaten in the final hundred metres.
Serhiy Honchar (T-Mobile) finished safely in the bunch and so retained the yellow jersey. Floyd Landis (Phonak) is still second at exactly a minute and Australia’s Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is third at 1-08.
Bradley Wiggins (Cofidis) finished 42nd in the bunch, with David Millar further back but in the same time in 129th place. In the overall standings Millar is now 25th at 3-38 and Wiggins is 147th at 17-55.
“I can’t express how good it feels to have won. This is the most beautiful day of my life,” 27 year-old Calzati said.
?At the beginning of the stage I didn’t think I could win because Dave Zabriskie (CSC) and Matthias Kessler (T-Mobile) were also in the break. However at 45km out I realised that if I was going to have a chance I?d have to go for it and so I did.?
Calzati won the Tour de L?Avvenir in 2004 but then struggled with illness in 2005. This Tour stage win is by far the biggest of his four-year career and gave France their second win of the first week of the Tour.
?It’s good for France and for French riders because everybody says we don’t win enough. Now we’ve proved them wrong,? he said with pride.
The riders transfer to Bordeaux by plane on Sunday night for Monday’s first rest day. Racing returns on Tuesday with the flat 169.5km ninth stage from Bordeaux to Dax at the foot of the Pyrneees.
1 Sylvain Calzati (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 181km in 4.13.18 (42.784 km/h)
2 Kjell Carlström (Fin) Liquigas 2.05
3 Patrice Halgand (Fra) Crédit Agricole
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 2.15
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Lampre-Fondital
6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Milram
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Francaise Des Jeux
8 Luca Paolini (Ita) Liquigas
9 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic
10 David Kopp (Ger) Gerolsteiner
Overall standings after stage 8
1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 34.38.53
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 1.00
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 1.08
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile 1.45
5 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.50
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears 1.52
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
9 David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 1.53
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 2.00