Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale) brought joy to the French crowds in Brittany on stage eight of the Tour de France, as he attacked to take victory on the final climb in Mûr-de-Bretagne.
The Frenchman rode just ahead of a large group headed by Chris Froome (Team Sky), alongside Britain’s Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) over the 1km mark, before being brought back into the group and then making a decisive move with around 800m to go on the final climb.
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No-one was immediately able to go with Vuillermoz, but pre-stage favourite Daniel Martin (Cannondale-Garmin) soon made chase however, the Irishman was unable to catch Vuillermoz before the line and looked visibly frustrated as he crossed the line second.
Froome arrived in 10 seconds back in a large group which contained other GC contenders Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) lost a further 10 seconds as he struggled to maintain the high pace on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Much of the day between the start in Rennes and the finishing climb had been a relaxed affair, with a four-man break hanging out in front of the peloton with around three minutes in hand until around 70km to go on a warm and sunny day in Brittany.
There was then counter attacks out of the bunch after the sprinters teams sat-up after the intermediate sprint point, with Michal Golas (Etixx – Quick-Step), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) and Bartosz Huzarski (Bora-Argon18) forming a three-man break that would hold-out until the pace ramped up at 8km to go.
Cannondale-Garmin were the main protagonists in setting the pace to the foot of the climb in service of Martin, with all eight of his teammates on the front, but Sky kept Froome to the front as he impressed again on a tricky first week stage which saw a GC rivals lose time.
The Brit retained yellow, but green changed hands as André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) was unable to stick it on the climb, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) taking over the jersey after finishing fourth on the stage.
King of the Mountains leader Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) held onto his polka-dot jersey despite fading on the climb, with his closest rival in that classification Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) finishing outside the points on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.
But the day belonged to Vuillermoz, who scored Ag2r’s first win of this Tour after his perfectly timed attack to finish with five seconds to spare on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.
Sunday sees the Tour de France take on a late team time trial, with a testing 28km course for the teams to take on from Vannes to Plumelec before the first rest day of the race.
Tour de France 2015, stage eight: Rennes – Mûr-de-Bretagne, 181.5km
1. Alexis Vuillermoz (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, in 4-20-55
2. Daniel Martin (Ire) Cannondale-Garmin, at 5 seconds
3. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 10 seconds
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal
6. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC
7. Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-GreenEdge
8. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
9. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing
10. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC, all same time
14. Alberto Contador (Esp) Tinkoff-Saxo, st
17. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, st
30. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana, at 20 seconds
Overall classification after stage eight
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, in 31-01-56
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 11 secs
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 13 secs
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 26 secs
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 28 secs
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx-QuickStep at 34 secs
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 36 secs
8. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 1-07
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-15 secs
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek Factory Racing at 1-32
13. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 1-48
16. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1-56