Two wins in two days for Dutch sprinters
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) took his second consecutive Tour de France stage win as he sprinted to victory on stage eight in Amiens.
Groenewegen had to do without lead-out man Tim Roosen, who was brought down in a crash alongside Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) with 20km to go.
That meant that Groenewegen was forced to look after himself in the final kilometre, but did an excellent job as he picked his moment to launch his final acceleration in a scrappy final sprint.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the first to launch his bid for victory with 300m to go as Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) clashed behind – something that later saw them relegated to the back of the lead group.
Despite the pushing and shoving Gaviria and Greipel were able to come past a fading Sagan, but had no answer to Groenewegen who had a clean run to the line on the right-hand side of the line.
Meanwhile Martin had a frantic chase behind after his crash, with the entire UAE Team Emirates squad falling back to support their Irish leader.
With five kilometres to go Martin was within 35 seconds of the bunch, but as the pace went up for the sprint at the head of the race, the gap to Martin went out and by the time he reached the line Maritn had lost 1-16, meaning that he is now 2-47 off the race lead.
How it happened
Despite it being Bastille Day, stage eight of the Tour de France started in a similar vein to stage seven as no one seemed interested in getting in the day’s break.
In fact the first move of the race came from Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) who seemed to ride away inadvertently in the opening kilometres, before thinking better of a long day alone at the front of the race and sitting up to wait for the bunch.
Finally, with 160km to go, a breakaway came courtesy of the unlikely sources of Laurens Ten Dam (Team Sunweb), with the mountain domestique being joined by Marco Minnaard (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Fabien Grellier (Direct Energie) to form a break of two Dutchman and one Frenchman on Bastille Day.
However Ten Dam’s presence up the road did not last for long, and as Minnaard and Grellier pushed their lead out towards six minutes, the Team Sunweb rider sat up following a chat with his team car with 130km remaining.
By the time they reached the intermediate sprint with 93km to go, the break’s lead was down to four minutes, with Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) leading Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) across the line at the head of the peloton.
Taking confidence from his victory on stage seven, Dylan Groenewegen’s team-mate Antwan Tolhoek was moved to the front to help Tim Declercq (Quick-Step) and Jelle Vanendert (Lotto Soudal) in working to steadily bring the break back.
However after a pedestrian day in the saddle the breakaway were putting up a bit of a fight as they held a 1-40 gap with 25km to go, and the pace in the peloton even meant that some of the riders who had gone back to the team cars to get bottles were dropped.
At the bonus sprint with 20km to go Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) eased out of the bunch to take the one remaining bonus second to extend his lead to seven seconds.
The concerted chase on the front brought the break’s lead down to a minute with 17km to go, but the major drama was at the back of the bunch where a crash brought down a number of major riders including Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors) and Dan Martin.
By the time he was back on his bike with blood flowing from his left elbow, Martin was already 1-30 back from the bunch, but did at least have his entire team quickly alongside him to try and pace him back.
With 10km to go Grellier went on the attack to leave Minnaard and go in search of the combativity award, but was reeled in a few kilometres later.
By that point UAE Team Emirates had closed the gap to 40 seconds, but the pace in the peloton was only going up as Team Sky, Dimension Data, and Lotto Soudal all took places at the front of the bunch, and from there the gap started to go out again.
With three kilometres to go there was a surprising move by Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors), the former Belgian champion briefly opening a decent gap before he was closed down by Dimension Data.
Marcel Sieberg (Lotto Soudal) led the peloton under the flamme rouge before handing over the Groupama-FDJ to swing into the final straight with 500m to go.
Peter Sagan was the first to accelerate with 300m to go, with the world champion opening a decent gap as Fernando Gaviria and André Greipel clashed behind.
That clash slowed both men down, but they were still able to come around Sagan in the final 100m. However Dylan Groenewegen was staying out of the argy-bargy that saw Greipel and Gaviria relegated to the back of the group, and duly swept through on the right-hand side of the road to take his second stage win in as many days.
Meanwhile the clock ticked away to Dan Martin, and by the time the Irishman crossed the line alongside two team-mates he had conceded a significant 1-16 to his rivals in the front group.
Tour de France 2018, stage eight: Dreux to Amiens-Métropole, 181km
1. Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 4-23-36
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
3. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
5. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
6. Thomas Boudat (Fra) Direct Energie
7. Nikias Arndt (Ger) Team Sunweb
8. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data
9. Yves Lampaert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors
10. Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert, all at same time
General classification after stage eight
1. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, in 32-43-00
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 7 secs
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, at 9 secs
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 16 secs
5. Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 22 secs
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 49 secs
7. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 55 secs
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 56 secs
9. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 57 secs
10. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, at same time