Stage 8 of the 2016 Tour de France would be the first big GC day of this year’s race and Chris Froome (Team Sky) showed why he is the overall favourite, by crossing the line in Bagneres-de-Luchon first. Daniel Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) finished 2nd and 3rd place went to Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha).
With 4 big categorised climbs during today’s 184km route, and the Col du Tourmalet being the first of the four, it was clear today would be a stage for the climbing purists and GC contenders. Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka were active in the first 60km of the stage, just before the Tourmalet, as our African Team tried to make it into the early break of the day.
There would be no real early break of the day though, despite Serge Pauwels and Bernard Eisel’s best efforts, everything was always brought back. The first real escape took place on the lower slopes of the Tourmalet as Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) and Tony Martin (Etixx-Quickstep) went clear. When Team Sky took control of the peloton it was clear, no other attacks would take place and it became a slow process of elimination with riders just trying to keep in contact with the GC favourites as long as possible.
Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka had very little to gain from this situation and so the goal was for all riders to expend the least amount of energy as possible, but make it to the finish within the team cut. For a large part of the 2nd half of the stage, Mark Cavendish and Bernhard Eisel were fighting a lone battle right at the back of the race. The last climb of the day was the Col de Peyresourde, Cavendish our green jersey wearer and Eisel, were a little more than 30 minutes behind the front of the race at the start of the climb. The experienced duo, through real grit, determination and coupled with exceptional descending skill, were able to make it across a 4 minute gap in the final 20km to the 50 rider grupetto ahead of them.
Coming home with the large group meant Cavendish and Eisel made the time cut and our Manxman retained the lead in the green jersey points competition. All the other Team Dimension Data for Qhubeka riders also made it safely to finish and will start tomorrow’s tough 9th stage.
Rolf Aldag – Head of Performance
It was a very difficult day, full gas from the start and it just never slowed down. I have not seen one smiling rider the whole day, maybe Chris Froome was because he won, but otherwise not one the whole day. Obviously the team did an incredible job in the first week and now in these mountain stages we pay the price a little bit. Natnael Berhane and Daniel Teklehaimanot were so committed in riding the flats in the early stages that now they lack a little bit of power. Still, we are proud we brought everyone home and defended the green jersey. Tomorrow is another day but not necessarily any easier.