Denmark?s Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) won the tough Alpine stage to Tignes, pulled on the yellow jersey and took control of the climber?s polka-dot jersey on Sunday as the overall contenders showed their strengths and weaknesses for the first time in this year?s race.
Rasmussen jumped away from the peloton on the first big climb and then powered past a big early break. He was first over the two big category one climbs and also took maximum points by winning the stage in Tignes. He won by almost three minutes and took the yellow jersey from Saturday’s winner Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) by 43 seconds.
Iban Mayo (Saunier Duval) finished second at 2-47 and moved up to third overall at 2-39. Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne) finished third at 3-12, just ahead of Christophe Moreau (Ag2r), Frank Schleck (CSC), Cadel Evans (Predictor), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Alberto Contador (Discovery Channel) after Moreau made an early attack at the start of the 18km climb to the finish in Tignes.
Alexandre Vinokourov and Andreas Kloden (Astana) were the big losers of the day. Vino was clearly unable to respond to Moreau?s attack and puffed and blowed up the climb sitting on Kloden?s wheel. The German gradually closed the gap by setting a solid tempo but in the final kilometres of the climb, Vino was in serious trouble and Kloden lost time by waiting for him and pacing him to the finish. The Astana duo finished 4-29 behind Rasmussen but more importantly lost a precious 1-16 to Valverde, Schleck, Evans and Moreau.
In the overall standing Vino is now 22nd overall, 5-23 behind Rasmussen, 2-32 behind Valverde and almost as much behind Evans, Moreau, Contador, Schleck and Denis Menchov (Rabobank). Kloden is better placed at 3-46 behind Rasmussen but for some reason sacrificed his chances to help Vino. They now have Monday?s rest day to recover and lick their wounds but could face similar attacks on Tuesday?s stage to Briancon that includes the Col du Galibier. The pair are clearly riding on the defensive and their rivals now know it.
The stage was marked with several nasty crashes, with Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) forced to retire 30km from the finish after hurting his right shoulder. Fellow Aussie Stuart O’Grady (CSC) also crashed out, while Britain’s Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile) quit at the mid-stage feed zone after being dropped early in the day.
Sprinters Robbie McEwen (Predictor-Lotto) and Danilo Napolitano (Lampre-Fondital) both finished outside the stage’s time limit and are now out of the Tour. In total, eight riders droppped out on today’s stage – the highest so far.
TOUR DE FRANCE: STAGE EIGHT RESULTS
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 4.49.40 (34.18 km/h)
2 Iban Mayo Diez (Spa) Saunier Duval 2.47
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 3.12
4 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2r 3.13
5 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor
7 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel 3.31
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 3.35
10 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC
18 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana
19 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana both at 4.29
Mark Cavendish (GBr) T-Mobile did not finish
130 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval ? Prodir 39.07
144 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis
159 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Barloworld
172 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas all same time
OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE EIGHT
1 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 35.37.42
2 Linus Gerdemann (Ger) T-Mobile Team 0.43
3 Iban Mayo (Spa) Saunier Duval 2.39
4 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 2.51
5 Andrey Kashechkin (Kaz) Astana 2.52
6 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor 2.53
7 Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2r 3.06
8 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Discovery Channel 3.10
9 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC 3.14
10 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 3.19
11 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.35
12 Andreas Kloden (Ger) Astana 3.46
22 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana 5.23
Other british riders
88 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval – Prodir 41.58
104 Charles Wegelius (GBr) Liquigas 50.43
151 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis 1.06.14
160 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Barloworld 1.09.22