Tour de France - Froome in yellow after stunning stage eight win

Britain's Chris Froome led a Sky one-two ahead of team-mate Richie Porte to win the first mountain-top finish of the Tour and take the leader's yellow jersey.

Cycling - FACTBOX-Tour de France champion Chris Froome

View photo

Britain's Chris Froome takes the yellow jersey after stage eight of the Tour de France (Reuters)

A devastating attack on the second of two mammoth climbs towards the end of the 195km stage eight into the Pyrenees saw Froome leave all his rivals for dead.

Porte followed Froome’s lead to make his own attack moments later, four kilometres from the summit, to put air between himself and the other race favourites and underline Sky’s domination in the world’s biggest bike race.

Almost a year after Bradley Wiggins and Froome secured a famous one-two on the Champs-Elysees, Froome and Porte made huge strides to repeat the feat in the fierce heat of southern France.

His arms aloft and a huge smile beaming across his face, Froome crossed the line 51 seconds ahead of his team-mate, with their nearest rival, Spain’s Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, coming home one minute and eight seconds in arrears and just ahead of Belkin’s Dutch duo Bauke Mollema and Laurens Ten Dam.

Spaniard Alberto Contador of Saxo-Tinkoff – considered Froome’s main rival ahead of the Tour – suffered on the final climb to Ax 3 Domaines and finished 1:45 down on the new yellow jersey, having to be paced up the Cat.1 ascent by his Czech team-mate Roman Kreuziger.

Twenty-eight-year-old Froome now leads Tasmanian team-mate Porte by 51 seconds on GC, with Valverde in third place at 1:25. Contador is seventh, at 1:51.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Froome said after securing the second Tour stage win – and the first maillot jaune - of his career. “It really has been a very nervous week building up till now but the team has done fantastic job to come through first week in such a strong position.

“To win the stage and get Richie in second is a dream come true – it was the first proper GC day and it couldn’t have gone better.

Contador was not the only GC rider to wilt in the 30-degree temperatures and the Team Sky furnace, with 2011 winner Cadel Evans cracking on the final climb to trickle home more than four minutes down.

Australian Evans fared better than his BMC team-mate Tejay van Garderen, who was distanced by the main pack on the penultimate climb of the day, the Port de Pailheres, to lose more than 12 minutes at the finish of a stage which completely pulverised the general classification.

The seeds of Sky’s victory were sown on the precipitous slopes of the Pailheres climb – at 2,001 metres, the highest peak of the 100th edition of the Tour – after some relentless pace-setting by Vasil Kiryienka and Peter Kennaugh thinned out the pack to just 25 riders.

Colombian climber Nairo Quintana jumped clear of the pack early in the climb in pursuit of lone leader Christophe Riblon of Ag2R-La Mondiale, one of four riders to break clear of the peloton shortly after the start of the stage at Castres and build up a large lead of nine minutes on the opening flat stretch of the race.

With the three other initial escapees - Dutch national champion Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM) and French duo Jean-Marc Marino (Sojasun) and Rudy Molard (Cofidis) – already caught, Quintana made his move shortly after similar solo attacks by Robert Gesink (Belkin) and Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).

Quintana caught Voeckler, Gesink and then Riblon, before soloing up the steepest section of the Tour’s first major test with Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) in pursuit.

The 23-year-old Colombian crossed the summit to take the Souvenir Henri Desgrange – awarded each year to the first rider to reach the Tour’s highest point – with a 40-second lead over Rolland, and a further 25 seconds over the Sky-led peloton.

Rolland, whose second place over the summit saw him reinstalled as the polka dot jersey for the king of the mountains competition, caught Quintana towards the end of the descent, with the excellent Kennaugh leading the chase for the main pack.

Quintana eased ahead of Rolland as soon as the final ascent arrived – but this was to prove immaterial once Froome and Porte combined to explode the main pack 7km from the finish.

One by one, the race favourites sank like stones cast into the sea. In quick succession, Evans, Rolland, RadioShack’s Andy Schleck, FDJ's Tibault Pinot, Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin and Katusha's Joquim Rodriguez were blown off the back.

Soon, it was a tale of three teams, with the Sky duo leading the race alongside Saxo-Tinkoff pair Contador and Kreuziger, and Movistar’s Quintana and Valverde.

Once Froome made his move, 5km from the finish, none of his rivals had an answer. Seemingly out of respect to team protocol and hierarchy, Porte took his foot off the gas, before unleashing his own blistering acceleration moments later.

Porte rode around 30 seconds down on his team leader, but Froome managed to increase the gap over the final kilometres to come home almost a minute to the good.

With Sunday’s stage nine from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre featuring a succession of five peaks, Sky could well build up an insurmountable lead at the top of the standings before Monday's first rest day.

But 28-year-old Froome remains focused, stressing that there is still a long way to ride until Paris.

“Despite the result, we were put under pressure today,” he said, with reference to Quintana’s attack. “There are still two weeks to go and there’s definitely going to be a lot more attacks to withstand. Now we have the jersey we’re going to have to defend it.”

View comments (122)