By Barnaby Chesterman ,AFP
GERARDMER, France — Alberto Contador ignited the yellow jersey battle on Saturday as Blel Kadri became the first home stage winner at this year’s Tour de France. Kadri rode to a solo victory after attacking his fellow escape companions in the final 25km of the 161km eighth stage from Tomblaine and came in more than two minutes ahead of Contador. But it was the Spaniard who set the overall victory race alight as he clawed back three seconds on yellow jersey wearer Vincenzo Nibali. But the 29-year-old Sicilian played down the importance of Contador’s gain. “On the final climb Alberto kept attacking but I managed to follow him quite comfortably,” said the Astana team leader. “The finish was 1.8km and really steep. It wasn’t really ideally suited to my characteristics, I’m not really explosive. I got the wrong gear and he accelerated straight afterwards. “The important thing was that I was there. He took three seconds in the last 100 meters but I don’t know how significant that can be.” Nibali added: “I’m happy with my form. There are much more important climbs to come.” It was the first real opportunity for the overall favorites to stretch their legs in an uphill finish and the results were remarkable. Nibali lost time only to Tinkoff-Saxo leader Contador, but Richie Porte, the new Team Sky leader after reigning champion Chris Froome’s withdrawal on Wednesday, gave notice of his intent by losing just four seconds to the Italian as he came in fourth.
Grueling “I’m happy with how that went, it is not really my bread and butter and I think that on the longer climbs I will be better,” Porte told ITV4.
“Tinkoff-Saxo are riding very aggressively from a long way out, a bit like Team Sky used to do.” Porte moved up to third overall at 1min 58sec but the bigger mover was Contador, up 10 places to sixth at 2:34. Nibali’s team-mate and chief ‘domestique’ Jakob Fuglsang is second overall but he lost 1:42 to his leader and is only 14sec ahead of Porte. His time in the leading places will almost certainly end on Monday’s grueling mountain stage, if not before. While Saturday’s stage, with one third category climb and two second category ones, did not seem particularly tough on paper, Tinkoff-Saxo’s acceleration in the final 25km sorted out which favorites were in form and which ones will have to wait for another year. Alejandro Valverde, now fifth overall at 2:27, lost 16sec to Nibali and Tejay Van Garderen gave up 20sec. The American is now 13th at 3:34, having lost more than a minute due to a crash Friday. Andrew Talansky crashed for the second day in a row at the end of the stage and lost more than two minutes to now sit 16th at 4:22.
Kadri was part of a five-man breakaway that pulled out a lead of more than 11 minutes at one point. By the time the first of the three climbs arrived, the peloton had shaved more than six minutes off that lead.