Biniam Girmay celebrates second victory on stage eight of Tour de France

Biniam Girmay took his second victory on stage eight of the Tour de France as Tadej Pogacar retained the yellow jersey.

The rolling 183.4km stage to Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises – the former home and final resting place of Charles de Gaulle – looked tailor-made for a breakaway but instead came down to a reduced sprint on a riding gradient up to the finish line.

That counted out the likes of Sir Mark Cavendish and Dylan Groenewegen but proved ideal terrain for Girmay, who earlier this week became the first black African to win a stage of the Tour, to double up, extending his advantage as the leader of the points classification in the process.

Bryan Coquard opened up his sprint first – some 200 metres out – but the Frenchman had gone too soon as Girmay sat on his wheel. As Jasper Philipsen tried to come past the pair of them, Girmay responded and just had the power to edge out the Belgian.

“It’s unbelievable to win two times,” the Eritrean said. “What can I say? I want to say thanks to God for everything. I think this victory I need to give it to my mother and my father. They believed in me and give me all the support to be a cyclist, to become a professional.

“I just want to say thank you to my family, I’m so proud.”

Girmay admitted the slight drag to the finish line was the perfect territory for him.

“That’s why I won!” he said. “I prefer this type of sprint. When it’s really flat, the other guys – the bigger, heavier guys – can push more watts and go faster, but this finish for me with my weight is super nice.

“The team put me on the perfect wheel and gave me a good lead-out. I felt not super good in the beginning with the bad weather, but soon I felt super good and I just needed my best sprint.”

Cycling Tour de France
Tadej Pogacar retained his advantage of yellow before Sunday’s gravel stage around Troyes (Daniel Cole/AP)

The sprint finish meant no change at the top of the general classification ahead of Sunday’s anticipated stage over 14 gravel sections around Troyes, with Pogacar remaining 33 seconds clear of Remco Evenepoel, with defending champion Jonas Vingegaard 75 seconds back.

As the race rolled out of Semur-en-Auxois in the morning, all expectations had been for a substantial breakaway to go up the road and try to make use of some undulating terrain in north-eastern France.

EF Education-EasyPost seemed keen to light it up in the early going but then pulled back, leaving Uno-X Mobility’s Jonas Abrahamsen alone in front after he had joined the move in a bid to stretch his advantage in the king of the mountains standings.

The Norwegian would do that and more as he spent 170km out front alone, but the six-minute advantage he built never looked like being enough to hold off a motivated peloton and he was finally reeled in around 15km from the finish.

But there was a muted feel to the post-stage ceremonies as the peloton learned news of the death of Norwegian rider Andre Drege following a crash on the descent of the Grossglockner during the penultimate stage of the Tour of Austria.

The 25-year-old, who finished one place ahead of Abrahamsen in the Norwegian national road race last month, had recorded seven victories so far this season and had been linked with a move to the WorldTour level for 2025.

A statement from the world governing body said: “The UCI is devastated to learn of the death of professional cyclist Andre Drege at the Tour of Austria. Our thoughts are with his family, friends and team-mates.”

Pogacar said: “It’s hard to process what happened, we’re all quite in shock. This is very sad to hear. My condolences go to his family, team-mates and all his loved ones.

“In the cycling world, we need to look around each other and take care of each other.”