GERARDMER, France (AP) — Finally, one for France.
Blel Kadri became the first Frenchman to win a Tour de France stage this year on Saturday, joining a bold early attack on the pack with four other riders, and outpacing that breakaway bunch to the uphill finish of a rainy 161-kilometer (100-mile) ride from Tomblaine to Gerardmer La Mauselaine ski resort.
The victory was doubly impressive because he beat out the race’s two biggest title contenders, two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador and overall race leader Vincenzo Nibali, who were second and third, respectively, more than 2 minutes back.
Here are five things to know about the eighth stage:
TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE: Kadri’s victory came with an added benefit: He wrested from compatriot Cyril Lemoine the polka-dot jersey for the Tour’s best climber. “The team’s priority was to win a stage. It’s done,” Kadri said. “The polka-dot jersey is just the cherry on the cake.” He may well remember that cherry tomorrow when he wears the white jersey with red dots. The AG2R rider attacked in the Col de la Croix des Moinats and reached in first place the summit of the stage’s three climbs to earn the maximum number of points awarded in the best climber contest. Kadri won the Roma Maxima last year in Italy.
A POSSIBLE KINGMAKER: Often in the shadow of the better-known Alps and Pyrenees, the Vosges mountains on the border with Germany — only France’s fifth-highest range — nevertheless have gotten high billing in the race. This Tour has 25 total mountain passes among the top three categories of difficulty. Eleven are in the Vosges, five in the Alps, and eight in the Pyrenees. The riders scaled two of those — the Grosse Pierre (Big Rock) and Croix des Moinats — on Saturday. “The breaking point is there,” BMC team manager Yvon Ledanois said. “Bodies are worn out. There has been a permanent tension since the start of the Tour. That’s the reason why many riders will struggle in the Vosges.” The next stages in the Vosges will be more difficult with the possibility to see contenders isolated from their teammates. Riders will face seven climbs on Monday, including four category 1 ascents.
GENERATIONAL DIVIDE? Swiss veteran Fabian Cancellara says he is not having much fun on this Tour marred by crashes, and one reason is the behavior of youngsters. “It’s just somehow a mess and disrespectful,” the 33-year-old Trek Factory Racing rider said before Saturday’s stage start in Tomblaine. “When I was a young rider, I had to close my mouth and pedal. Now, everyone thinks he’s a hero.” Cancellara turned pro in 2001. A time-trial specialist, he has won eight Tour stages, and retained his Tour of Flanders title in April. “From the first day until now, we saw a few things, where younger guys were involved and complained,” Cancellara said. “And in the end, it was their (own) mistake.” He declined to identify any rider by name.
SOLEMN WAR MEMORIES: The Tour has been giving a nod to those who died in the First World War, which began 100 years ago, by riding along the battlefields and fronts of northern and eastern France where millions died. But fighting during World War II also happened in this region and across the Rhine River in Germany, and the pack rolled by the Epinal American Cemetery on Saturday. The 49-acre cemetery sitting on a plateau above the Moselle River, in the town of Dinoze, houses the graves of 5,255 U.S. service members from 1944 and 1945, according to the cemetery website, which is run by American Battle Monuments Commission.
TALANSKY TUMBLES AGAIN: Andrew Talansky’s hopes for a top-five finish took a blow with a second crash in as many days on Saturday. The American skidded off the wet road in the final ascent to slip to 16th in the standings, 4:22 behind Nibali. After the stage, Talansky tweeted that at his Garmin-Sharp team, “… we never give. This race is 3 weeks long, plenty of racing still to be done and plenty of time to achieve our goals.” Talansky also fell off in the mass sprint of Friday’s stage but did not lose time according to the Tour rules because his crash happened in the last three kilometers of a flat finish.
Eds: Trung Latieule in Paris contributed to this report.
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