STATION DES ROUSSES, France (AP) — After 1,400 kilometers (practically 900 miles) in eight days of racing, the suffer-fest Tour de France now turns the ache dial up a notch or 5. How does scaling half the peak of Everest in someday sound?
That is the monstrous problem lurking on Sunday for the 193 already drained and sunbaked riders who’ve made it this far.
For the second, when race chief Chris Froome seems over his shoulder, he sees a gaggle of challengers scorching on his heels. Simply 61 seconds separate him from 10th-placed Rafal Majka of Poland. Extra harmful contenders are nearer nonetheless to the three-time Tour champion.
All that may possible change on the succession of seven climbs in jap France’s Jura mountains on Sunday — three of them so powerful they defy categorization on biking’s sliding scale of climbing toughness. “A monster stage” is how Froome described it, predicting the race standings will “get blown to items.”
Complete elevation, when all of the ascents are added collectively: four,600 meters (15,000 ft). That is simply shy of the peak of western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc, and about stomach button-height on Everest.
The final “hors categorie” climb, Mont du Chat, could also be named after a cat however seems on Tour maps like a lion’s fang. With a median 10 p.c gradient, and even steeper than that in elements, it’s going to push riders already exhausted by the earlier six climbs to the very restrict. Hearts pounding, legs burning, they are going to don’t have any time to recuperate from its hairpin bends earlier than plunging into extra quick, twisting bends on the descent. Clear heads and fast reactions are a should: Not straightforward when physique and mind are screaming for relaxation.
“That climb is savage,” Froome stated. “I think about it should blow the final classification proper open.”
Complicating issues: Saturday’s stage, additionally within the Jura mountains, was removed from straightforward.
Froome’s teammates at Sky needed to journey onerous to ensure that riders who rode off on the entrance of the race, chasing the stage victory, did not get too far forward and take the general lead away from him. The query now’s whether or not Sky pays for the hassle on Sunday and run out of juice on the 181.5-kilometer (112-mile) Stage 9 from Nantua to Chambery within the Alps, arguably essentially the most grueling of this Tour’s 21 levels.
“It was good to see them pull on the entrance,” stated Australian Richie Porte of the rival BMC workforce, who’s 39 seconds behind Froome general, in fifth place. “I hope there’s some drained legs amongst them tomorrow.”
Grinding away from pursuers on a small mountain street extra suited to goats than riders, Lilian Calmejane received Stage eight to the Rousses ski station, for his first victory in his first Tour.
Calmejane, driving for French workforce Direct Energie, fought cramp after breaking away on the ultimate climb and held on, tongue lolling, for victory in solely the second go to by the Tour to the Rousses, with its cross-country ski trails by dense forests.
It was the second win at this Tour for a French rider, after Arnaud Demare’s on Stage four.
Froome rode in 50 seconds after Calmejane — loads shut sufficient to retain the yellow jersey — in a bunch with the entire different high contenders for general victory in Paris on July 23.
Froome’s day wasn’t with out incident: On a downhill, right-hand bend after the second of three rated climbs on the 187.5 kilometer (116-mile) stage from Dole, the Briton went into roadside gravel as a substitute of cornering. Froome stayed on his bike and rapidly recovered. However teammate Geraint Thomas went over roadside obstacles. Thomas rapidly rejoined the race, and Froome stated his teammate was unhurt.
The nook “sprang up on us a bit bit,” Froome stated. “One second you are in management, the following factor you are in a ditch.”
Calmejane held off Dutch rider Robert Gesink, scorching on his heels, on the ultimate climb and rolling end. Cramping from his effort, Calmejane needed to gradual and rise off his saddle to stretch his legs within the closing part after which gritted his tooth and pedaled onward to the road.
“I gave myself an enormous fright,” Calmejane stated of his cramps. “It might have been so unhappy to lose the stage like that.”
Gesink, of the Netherlands’ Lotto-Jumbo workforce, rode in 37 seconds after Calmejane. French rider Guillaume Martin positioned third on the stage, one other 13 seconds again.
By being the primary rider to scale the day’s final climb, Calmejane loved the added bonus of choosing up sufficient factors to take the polka-dot jersey — awarded for factors collected on climbs — off the shoulders of Italian Fabio Aru.
“Profitable alone like that’s unbelievable,” stated Calmejane, who additionally received a stage at his first Grand Tour, the Spanish Vuelta, final 12 months. “It is all the things I dreamed of.”
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