Tour de France - Kadri into polka dots after soloing to win

Blel Kadri of Ag2R-La Mondiale took France’s first victory of the Tour de France with a superb stage eight solo win in the Vosges mountains at Gerardmer.

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Tour de France - Kadri into polka dots after soloing to win
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AG2R-La Mondiale team rider Blel Kadri (Reuters)

The 27 year old from Toulouse shed his four breakaway companions to ride clear on the first of three successive climbs towards the end of the 161km stage from Tomblaine. Kadri’s first career victory on the Tour de France also saw the Frenchman into the polka dot jersey as the leader of the king of the mountains competition.

“I’m really happy and it’s an amazing feeling right now,” said Kadri. “I told my team this morning that I wanted to get in the break and so I’m delighted for myself and for my team-mates.”

Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali, the yellow jersey, fought tooth and nail with Spanish rival Alberto Contador on the final climb, with two-time Tour winner Contador of Tinkoff-Saxo edging ahead on the closing straight to cross the line three seconds ahead of Astana’s Nibali to take second place on another sodden stage.

With Nibali in his wake, Contador finished 2:17 down on winner Kadri, as Australia’s Richie Porte (Team Sky) rallied to take fourth at 2:24. Porte – Sky’s leader following the withdrawal of defending champion Chris Froome – moved into third place in the general classification, 1:58 down on Nibali.

Nibali, the Italian national champion, now leads his Astana team-mate Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark by 1:44 atop the standings, with Contador rising into the top ten after an impressive ride by his Tinkoff-Saxo team.

Where Nibali was left isolated on the final climbs, Contador could rely on the pace-setting of Australian veteran Mick Rogers, Ireland’s Nico Roche and Polish youngster Rafal Majka. The Spaniard is now sixth on GC, 2:34 down on Nibali. By contrast, Nibali's climbing lieutenants Fuglsang and Tanel Kangert struggled to match the ferocity of Bjarne Riis' team, the Estonian even colliding with a spectator's picnic chair while trying to sprint back to the main pack on the final descent.

It was great day for both France and Kadri’s Ag2R-La Mondiale team: Kadri’s team-mates Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet both finished in the top ten alongside fellow Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Sylvain Chavanel (IAM Cycling).

But things did not go so swimmingly for American Andrew Talansky: the Garmin-Sharp rider dropped out of the top ten after crashing for the second successive day. Talansky overcooked a slippery bend on the descent to the foot of the final climb and then struggled with a mechanical issue with his bike. The Criterium du Dauphine winner lost over two minutes to his rivals on what was the first of five summit finishes on the race.

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski, Belgium’s Jurgen van den Broeck, Portugal’s Rui Costa and Dutchman Bauke Mollema all lost precious ground on Nibali ahead of Sunday’s second day in the Vosges and Haut-Rhin.

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FIVE-MAN BREAK:  France’s Sylvain Chavanel (IAM) and Dutch former team-mate Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step ) attacked after a fairly fast and frantic start to the race, to be joined shortly after by Britain’s Simon Yates (Orice-GreenEdge) and Frenchmen Adrien Petit (Cofidis) and Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale). With the peloton sitting up under bright sunshine, the escapees managed to pull out a maximum lead of eleven minutes.

Shortly after the intermediate sprint at Sercoeur the heavens opened to give the stage a whole new complexion. Some fierce pace-setting by Garmin-Sharp, Tinkoff-Saxo and Katusha saw the gap tumble ahead of the first of three climbs. Chavanel was first to attack, pinging off the front with Kadri on the Cat.2 Col de la Croix des Moinats.

Yates, third in the British national championships and the youngest rider left in the race, led the chase as both Terpstra and Petit struggled. Kadri soon dropped Chavanel to cross the summit in pole position and secure the polka dot jersey. Yates almost caught Chavanel but the experienced Frenchman edged ahead on the descent in lone pursuit of Kadri.

But last year’s Roma Maxima winner only got stronger as his pursuers faltered on the 16 percent slopes of the Cat.2 Col de Grosse Pierre. Yates hit the wall as was caught by Terpstra – yet it mattered very little: all of the escapees were eventually swept up by the peloton with the exception of Kadri, who could celebrate with a handshake with his Ag2R-La Mondiale directeur sportive in the team car as he passed under the flamme rouge amid a cacophony of cheers from the fervent French fans.

RIDER OF THE DAY: It’s hard to look beyond Blel Kadri – although for a moment there was hope that Simon Yates would end Britain’s rotten run in the Tour with a gutsy win. Kadri used his experience and strength to attack at the right moment – and in doing so ensured France had something to celebrate ahead of Bastille Day on Monday.

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DAY TO FORGET: For a second day running Andrew Talansky features here after yet another crash saw the American lose two minutes to his rivals and drop out of the top ten. Peter Sagan also failed to finish in the top five for the first time in the entire race – although given the demanding finale, you can hardly blame him.

COMING UP: Sunday’s mountainous 170km stage nine from Gerardmer to Mulhouse features six categorised climbs – including the Cat.1 ascent of Le Markstein, the biggest so far in the 2014 Tour – before a fast downhill ride and a 20km run into the finish. It’s tailor-made for a breakaway – plus could see confident downhill riders in the mould of Sagan, Nibali and Contador pile on the pressure on that long 22km descent of the back of the Cat.3 Grand Ballon.

PLAT DU JOUR: Fried carp is a big thing in Mulhouse – as is something called Fleischnacka, which literally means ‘snails of meat’ but is actually an Alsatian dish of minced beef rolled in fresh noodle dough and cut into slices, which are then in turn cooked in stock.

STAGE IN A SENTENCE: Kadri secures clean sweep for France as Contador and Nibali give a taste of things to come.

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