Tour de France 2020: Adam Yates clings tight to yellow on day of drama
Nans Peters wins stage eight but home favourite Pinot falters
Yates battles back to retain lead after losing it on the road
Adam Yates clung on doggedly to the overall lead in the 2020 Tour de France, containing a flurry of attacks from the leading group of pre-race favourites in the first Pyrenean stage, from Cazères-sur-Garonne to Loudenvielle.
Attacks from Primoz Roglic of Jumbo-Visma, Guillaume Martin of Cofidis, Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates and Nairo Quintana of Arkea Samsic on the Col de Peyresourde, failed to dislodge Yates, while he was also able to contain a last-ditch move from Romain Bardet of AG2R La Mondiale.
“I’m pretty happy,” Yates said. “We let the breakaway go as it was easy for us to control. Later, Jumbo-Visma started pushing the pace really hard, and rode pretty much full gas to the finish.”
Yates at one point looked close to cracking but said: “In the end I did my thing and tried to stay with the best guys. I had to collect myself, and then claw my way back.”
A minute now separates the top 10, all riding for different teams, in the overall standings and the dominance that Jumbo-Visma exerted over the peloton in the first week of racing appears to be evaporating.
Ahead, victory on stage eight fell to Bardet’s French teammate Nans Peters, who slipped clear of his breakaway companion, Ilnur Zakarin of CCC, on the high-speed descent of the Port de Balès. It was the 26-year old’s second Grand Tour stage victory, following one at the 2019 Giro d’Italia.
The signs that this may be a far more open Tour than first expected came when Roglic found himself isolated on the Peyresourde and under attack from his Slovenian compatriot Pogacar, Martin and Quintana, while his co-leader, Tom Dumoulin, lost contact.
Egan Bernal, meanwhile, supported by his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz, looked more at ease than earlier in the race and the defending champion was able to follow the flurry of attacks, as his rivals finally showed their hand. The accelerations relegated Julian Alaphilippe to an also-ran and Deceuninck – Quick-Step’s former race leader is now a very distant 18 minutes behind.
It was a bittersweet day for French fans. In scenes that echoed last year’s Tour, which he abandoned in tears, the home favourite Thibaut Pinot finished the stage in agony, having ridden the last two climbs troubled by the back injuries that the Groupama FDJ rider sustained when crashing on stage one in Nice. “My back hurts so much that I have no strength,” Pinot said. “I can’t pedal. Today is maybe a turning point in my career, it’s too many failures for me.”
Bardet, meanwhile, despite crashing, rediscovered some of the grit and determination that took him to second place overall in 2016. He may now replace Pinot in home affections.
The Tour’s entry to the Pyrenees, the day after a breathless stage to Lavaur, drew a significant number of casualties aside from the hapless Pinot, even though for much of the stage the peloton maintained a steady pace behind a 13-rider breakaway. As Zakarin and Peters moved ahead to contest the stage, the pace set by Jumbo-Visma proved too much even for their own riders, as they shed Roglic’s climbing lieutenants Sepp Kuss and George Bennett. For once the well-oiled machine looked close to break down. Even Roglic’s late attacks failed to dent his rivals and the mask of infallibility seemed to slip.
“We planned on doing something for the overall, but this wasn’t the plan,” Bennett said, “nor was it that Dumoulin would lose time.”
The day’s action was not enough either to write off Roglic or claim that the Grenadiers are back, but it definitely suggested that this race may remain undecided for a while, even into the final weekend.