Chris Froome in yellow after daring downhill attack

British defending champion Chris Froome made a huge statement of intent as he powered into the yellow jersey with an opportune downhill attack in the Pyrenees to win stage eight of the Tour de France.

The Team Sky rider attacked out of a heavily reduced peloton at the summit of the day’s final climb and then pulled away on the 15km descent to the finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon to beat the chasing pack by 13 seconds.

Froome received 10 bonus seconds for his win and now moves to the top of the general classification, 16 seconds ahead of second-placed Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange, his fellow Briton, and third-placed Joaquim Rodriguez riding for Katusha. Movistar’s Nairo Quintana  finished in the chase group in 11th place on the day and is now 23 seconds down on Froome in sixth overall, but Alberto Contador of Tinkoff lost another 1min 41sec after being dropped on the final climb and is now 3min 13sec adrift in the standings.

Stage eight was the second of three back-to-back days in the Pyrenees and took the riders over four categorised climbs on a 184km route starting in Pau. Although the peloton was heavily thinned down on the first climb, with previous race leader Greg Van Avermaet of BMC Racing among those dropped, the overall contenders saved their attacks for the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde. Froome, Quintana, Etixx – Quick-Step rider Dan Martin and Romain Bardet of Ag2r-La Mondiale all put in digs, but none of them could break free and the lead group consequently reached the top all together.

Froome accelerated to cross the summit first and take maximum mountains classification points, but he surprisingly then continued the attack and was aided by the fact that Quintana directly behind had paused to collect a water bottle.Froome’s lead was little more than 20m for a long time, but he then moved into the tuck position – where the rider sits on the frame rather than the saddle – and pedaled his bike to speeds in excess of 90kmh.

Quintana moved aside to let team-mate Alejandro Valverde, who is one of the best descenders in the sport, take up the chase, but the Spaniard was unable to match Froome’s pace and the gap gradually grew out to 24 seconds.It was clawed back to 13 seconds in the flat final 2km following attacks from Fabio Aru and Bardet, but Froome hung on to claim the sixth Tour stage win of his career ahead of Martin in second place and Rodriguez in third.

The Tour continues on Sunday with a 184km ninth stage starting in Vielha Val d’Aran and ending with a summit finish at Andorre Arcalis.

Stage eight result

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 4:57:33
2 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +13sec
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, same time
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
5 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff, st
6 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, st
7 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, st
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, st
9 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, st
10 Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing, st

General classification

1 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, 39:13:04
2 Adam Yates (GB) Orica-BikeExchange, +16sec
3 Joaquim Rodriguez (Esp) Katusha, same time
4 Dan Martin (Irl) Etixx – Quick-Step, +17
5 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, +19
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar, +23
7 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, st
8 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, st
9 Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st
10 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, st

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