As was the case on stage three, Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) were forced to settle for the minor places as Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took victory on stage seven of the Tour de Suisse.
Groupama-FDJ had put in a textbook lead-out effort through the final five kilometres to put Démare in a good position, but found themselves overtaken by Quick-Step Floors as Maximilano Richeze moved Gaviria to the front with 200m to go.
From there it looked like the Colombian’s stage to lose, but Démare showed an impressive burst of speed as he came through on the right-hand side to take the stage win, with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) in third and Sagan in fourth.
There were splits in the group behind, but no major changes in the general classification, meaning that Richie Porte (BMC Racing) maintains a 17-second lead over Nairo Quintana (Movistar) going into Sunday’s final time trial.
How it happened
The penultimate stage of the Tour de Suisse was the shortest road stage of the race, with the peloton facing just 123km over the course of six circuits around the town of Bellinzona.
A brisk start saw Eddie Dunbar (Aqua Blue Sport), Willie Smit (Katusha-Alpecin), Nathan Brown (EF Education First-Drapac), and Paul Ourselin (Direct Energie) escape early and open a lead of 1-30 over the peloton before the sprinters’ teams started to get organised behind.
Lotto-Soudal, Quick-Step Floors, Bora-Hansgrohe and Groupama-FDJ all shared turns on the front to bring the gap down below a minute for the first time with 27km to go, and that continued to fall as the break crossed the line for the penultimate time at 21.3km remaining, taking a lead of 35 seconds into the sixth and final lap.
A few last attacks from Smit and Dunbar only delayed the inevitable, and the Irishman and South African were the last to be caught with six kilometres to go as the sprinters positioned themselves behind.
Bora-Hansgrohe and Groupama-FDJ were the most prominent teams through the next few kilometres, with the French team looking particularly impressive with five riders in line ahead of Arnaud Démare.
In fact, a huge turn by Ramon Sinkeldam was even enoguh to cause splits in the group in the final kilometre, before Quick-Step moved to the front to set up Fernando Gaviria.
For a moment it looked as if Gaviria had the jump on Démare, but the Frenchman looked seriously imrpessive as he drew alongside his rival and came around the right-hand sign to take the win, with Alexander Kristoff (Katusha-Alpecin) in third and Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in fourth.
Tour de Suisse 2018, stage eight: Bellinzona to Bellinzona, 123km
1. Arnaud Demare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, in 2-41-17
2. Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
3. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) UAE Team Emirates
4. Peter Sagan (Slo) Bora-Hansgrohe
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
7. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) Dimension Data
8. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
9. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Soudal
10. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb, all at same time
General classification after stage eight
1. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, in 28-47-17
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, at 17 secs
3. Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 52 secs
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Quick-Step Floors, at 53 secs
5. Sam Oomen (Ned) Team Sunweb, at 1-13
6. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 1-28
7. Mikel Landa (Esp) Movistar, at 1-31
8. Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 1-37
9. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha-Alpecin, at 1-48
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, at 2-26