PORRENTRUY, Switzerland (AFP) — Sky’s Bradley Wiggins defended his yellow jersey on the second day in the hills after seeing his lead come under attack for the first time in the Tour de France.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Big Mat) won stage 8, his maiden win on what is his debut, after 157.5km of racing over several short but steep climbs in the Swiss Jura that exacted a toll on the peloton. His victory also gave him the polka-dot jersey of best climber.
Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) finished second at 26 seconds, leading home a select group after a failed attempt to shake off Wiggins on the way to the last summit and on the 16km descent to the finish.
Among those finishing with Evans were race leader Wiggins with teammate Chris Froome; Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale); Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol); Denis Menchov (Katusha); and RadioShack-Nissan riders Fränk Schleck, Chris Horner, Tony Gallopin and Haimar Zubeldia.
Wiggins, spending his first day in the yellow jersey after his third-place finish on Saturday at La Planche des Belles Filles, retained his 10-second lead on second placed Evans with Nibali still third at 16.
Pinot, a climbing specialist who at 22 years old is the youngest rider in this year’s race, had pressured team manager Marc Madiot to take him to the three-week epic.
And despite starting the day with instructions to stay in the peloton, he seized his chance after teammate Jérémy Roy, who had been in an earlier breakaway, was reeled in but did plenty of the groundwork for him.
Pinot eventually went off on his own and caught Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) on the seventh and final climb of the day, the 3.7km Col de la Croix.
He came over the summit with a small lead and rode hard on the 16km descent to claim the first French win of this year’s race.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pinot, who is from the nearby Franche-Comte region. “I just did the longest 10km of my life, I’ll never forget it. I was quite scared when I heard the peloton had closed the gap to 50 seconds.
“But a lot of this is down to Jérémy (Roy). He did a lot of the preparation work for me, I can’t thank him enough.”
Earlier in the stage Spain’s Olympic road race champion Samuel Sánchez crashed, suffering shoulder and hand injuries that could rule him out of the London Olympics later this month.
Monday’s ninth stage is the first of two long time trials in the race, a 41.5km race against the clock around Besancon.
Editor’s Note: Keep your browser pointed to VeloNews.com for more from stage 8 of the Tour de France.