Stage eight: Lilian Calmejane is last man pedalling with purpose
Stage-winner and former green jersey-wearer, Arnaud Démare, was the first to suffer. The hellish early pace meant he soon found himself 10 minutes behind the peloton – which is not a position in which any rider wants to find themselves when there’s a time cut in play. Tardiness is a crime in the Tour de France, but colleagues can be inconsiderate and those up ahead rarely relented.
In the end, the finish was actually kind of dull because everyone bar Lilian Calmejane had ridden themselves to a standstill earlier in the stage.
The young Frenchman appears to have plenty of fuel crammed into his slender legs because this wasn’t the first time he’d been out in the break all day. Nor is it the first time he’s been the strongest rider in a strong break in a grand tour. Further big wins will follow.
His win was “stronger than pain” said the Le Tour Twitter account, having quite possibly thrown caution to the wind with a literal translation.
— Le Tour de France (@LeTour) July 8, 2017
The overall contenders all sloped in together, visibly pondering stage nine.
There are six hors catégorie climbs in this year’s Tour de France – these are the ones that are literally categorised as ‘beyond categorisation’. Three of them are on this stage, which also throws in four smaller climbs to top things up to arrrgh.
Categorisation is a matter of length and gradient and these three are unusually steep buggers for the Tour, where nice engineered roads up to ski resorts are more common.
It’s interesting to note that the stage doesn’t end at altitude though. Instead, the tired riders will be descending the Mont du Chat like startled cats, racing to get away from one another. Downhill racing sometimes makes me queasy and this is guaranteed to be a particularly nauseating example with steep slopes and tight bends.
Apologies in advance, but I probably won’t do a stage report tomorrow. I’ll instead cover events in Monday’s Rest Day Wrap, in which I’ll try and provide a bit of an overview of where things stand overall.