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Tour de France: Thibaut Pinot wins stage eight as Bradley Wiggins retains the race leader's yellow jersey
Britain's Bradley Wiggins kept his cool to retain the Tour de France race leader's yellow jersey before charming French television audiences and later losing his calm in the post-stage press conference.
8 July 2012, 12:00am
The 32-year-old triple Olympic champion successfully nullified a late attack from Cadel Evans in the final two kilometres of the 157.5-kilometre eighth stage from Belfort to Porrentruy, won by Thibaut Pinot (FDJ-Bigmat).
Evans led an eight-man group 26 seconds behind in second place, Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) was third, with Wiggins fourth to maintain a 10-second lead over the defending champion entering Monday's crucial 41.5km time-trial to Besancon.
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) remained 16 seconds behind in third place, while Wiggins' Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, the winner of stage seven, moved from ninth to sixth place overall as the peloton moved closer to the conclusion in Paris.
Being in possession of the fabled maillot jaune on July 22 is Wiggins' ultimate goal and he was pleased with his day's work.
"It's another day of the Tour ticked off and I'm really happy," said Wiggins, who happily engaged in fluent French with his hosts, discussing everything from Wimbledon to the Olympics.
"The team was fantastic in the way that they were marshalling the race but it was a tough test. We saw on the last climb that there weren't many guys - like yesterday - but now we can look forward to the time-trial tomorrow."
It was a frantic opening to a day when the overall contenders were expected to conserve energy for the stage nine race against the clock ahead of Tuesday's rest day.
A breakaway was anticipated to succeed on a route featuring seven categorised climbs, but dangermen up the road meant Team Sky led the peloton's pursuit until the front group contained riders who were not a threat to Wiggins, who became the fifth rider to don the maillot jaune at the Tour and first since David Millar in 2000.
As another possible contender crashed out - Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who began the day in 12th, suffered a suspected fractured collarbone and will almost certainly miss the defence of his Olympic title - Team Sky were reluctant to allow the escape to establish until the day's fourth categorised climb, the category two Cote de Saignelegier.
Thereafter attack and counter-attack took place from those vying for the stage win, with Swede Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) forging on alone 60.5km from the finish while cresting the fifth mountain of the day.
Frenchmen Pinot and Gallopin were one minute behind at the summit of the penultimate climb but the decisive action was to take place on the ascent and the descent of the Col de la Croix, a brutal category one climb featuring some of the steepest slopes in the race.
As Pinot overhauled Kessiakoff, few were able to keep pace with the yellow jersey group, which reached the summit one minute 35 seconds behind.
The summit came 16km from the finish and Nibali was prominent on the descent before Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) attacked little more than 2km from the end.
Evans joined him and the duo found clear road, but Wiggins was able to drag himself and the chase group back for the finale.
"I was trying to maintain as calm an approach as possible on the final climb," Wiggins added.
"I was a bit surprised by the size of the group today at the top of the climb.
"I didn't expect us to go as hard as we did but we were ready for it and it was good to be there with those guys at the end."
Wiggins, as leader, will be the last rider to roll down the time-trial start ramp on Monday and is renowned for his ability against the clock.
He added: "It's not a straightforward time-trial - it's quite technical in places.
"It'll be a case of going out there and doing what we always do and stick to my race and stay focused on that - if that's good enough, then I'll hopefully take time on those guys."
As Wiggins fought to keep the race lead, Pinot soloed to victory, urged on by his team manager Marc Madiot, who bellowed at his rider from the back of the team car.
"I lived through the longest 10km of my life," Pinot said.
"When I saw the peloton had got to within 50 seconds with 10km to go, I began to panic.
"If I wanted a stage victory, it was now or never. I'm pleased to have earned a reward such as this."
Leading final positions after Stage 8 (Bellfort - Porrentruy, 157.5km):
1 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat 3hrs 59mins 10secs
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 0.26secs
3 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan at same time
4 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Sky Procycling at same time
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at same time
6 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at same time
7 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling at same time
8 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team at same time
9 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at same time
10 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan at 0.30
11 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan at same time
12 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Astana Pro Team at 0.47
13 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 1min 25secs
14 Chris Anker Sorensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at same time
15 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan at same time
88 David Millar (Gbr) Garmin - Sharp 4hrs 11mins 37secs
124 Stephen Cummings (Gbr) BMC Racing Team at 16mins 41secs
148 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Sky Procycling at 22.19
General classification after Stage 8:
1 Bradley Wiggins (Gbr) Sky Procycling 38hrs 17mins 56secs
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team at 0.10secs
3 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale at 0.16
4 Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha Team at 0.54
5 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) RadioShack-Nissan at 0.59
6 Christopher Froome (Gbr) Sky Procycling at 1min 32secs
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) RadioShack-Nissan at 2.08
8 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto Belisol Team at 2.11
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale at 2.21
10 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis
Le Credit En Ligne at 2.27
11 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Nissan at 3.13
12 Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) Movistar Team at 3.24
13 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ-Big Mat at 3.41
14 Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan at 3.43
15 Frank Schleck (Lux) RadioShack-Nissan at 3.47
113 Stephen Cummings (Gbr) BMC Racing Team 39hrs 26mins 17secs
135 David Millar (Gbr) Garmin - Sharp at 47mins 33secs
152 Mark Cavendish (Gbr) Sky Procycling at 51.59