Saturday, 9 July 2011

Rui Costa takes stage 8 of "Thor" de France

Surprising even himself, Thor Hushovd continues to shine in the Garmin-Cervelo Team climbing with the best of them to retain his yellow jersey for stage 9. While Moviestar rider Costa carved out the stage win on a day that saw Vinokourov make a determined effort to end his career on a high, attempting to bridge the gap between the breakaway group and the peloton.

Unsurprisingly the days breakaway took off almost immediately consisting of Costa (Movistar), Julien El Far├Ęs (Cofidis), Addy Engels (Quick Step), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha), Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Xabier Zandio (Sky) and Romain Zingle (Cofidis) in a move initiated by Christophe Riblon of the Ag2r-La Mondiale.

Costa broke clear of the leading group with Vinokourov hot on his heals heading into the 1.5km of the Super-Besse Sancy finish. Meanwhile back in the main bunch Alberto Contador made his first attempt to test the mettle of Evans and Andy Schleck. With Evans finishing in 3rd place 15 seconds down on Costa he remains in 2nd position in the GC standings. Meanwhile a 9th place finish for Schleck sees him move up into 3rd place overall.

Pre-Tour favourite Contador needs to find 1 minute 42 seconds as the race heads into the mountains if he wants to snatch the Maillot Jaune from the Thunder God Thor's shoulders. With a rest day on Monday Hushovd only needs to hold onto it during tomorrows stage to wear it again on Tuesday for the 10th stage.

Tomorrows leg breaking stage from Issoire to Saint-Flour will see the peloton's first-ever ascent of the Col de Perthus. With almost continuous climbs and descents from 50km in, there will be more testing of GC contendors before Monday's repos. A stage suited to the likes of Sylvain Chavanel this will be the first time the action really becomes nail biting.

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