Mads Pedersen sees off sprint rivals to win stage 8 – Tour de France

Tour de France 2023

Stage 8

Mads Pedersen gave Lidl-Trek a dramatic sprint win on stage 8 of the Tour de France in a charged finish which saw him overpower Jasper Philipsen and Wout van Aert into the uphill finish in Limoges.

After a day hotly tipped to be too hilly for the sprinters and likely to be won by a puncheur, the main break of the day was reeled in with 8.5km remaining, and the peloton came into the final 5km with all the key sprint contenders in their lead-out formations.

Christophe Laporte battled through an animated peloton to deliver Wout van Aert to the front of the field, closely by Jasper Philpsen in the wake of Alpecin-Deceuninck lead-out man Mathieu van der Poel, but it was Pedersen who found himself in the best position on the uphill kick of the final kilometre.

Philipsen initially rode onto Mads Pedersen’s wheel in the final but was unable to overpower the Dane in the final hundred metres and finished in second place. Behind him, Dylan Groenewegen saw his third place snatched up by a resurgent charge from Wout van Aert.

Of course, the main drama of the day was the abandonment of Mark Cavendish following a crash at 60km to go – which saw the departure of a major sprint contender in the race, and the sad end to a career for one of cycling’s greatest sprinters.

Speaking at the finish, a euphoric Pedersen relived the race. “We didn’t know this morning if it would be a breakaway or a sprint,” he said. “But it did look like the sprint the teams didn’t want it to be a breakaway day, so we stayed calm, and man the boys did that perfect lead out today and even with the longer sprint I still had the legs to finish it off.”

Pedersen made some brave attacks in the early kilometres of the stage but was not able to make the breakaway group. “Yeah, I tried a few times,” he said. “But I realised that they wouldn’t let us go. So after that, I just hang on and try to save some energy.”

Mads Pedersen dives for the line ahead of Jasper Philipsen and Wout van Aert.

Despite a tight margin, Pedersen was impressively confident of his win on the line. “I knew I won, but I knew was the long sprint and this uphill kick was really painful. So I was this close to sitting down with 50 metres to go,” he said.

Pedersen also paid his respects to Mark Cavendish after the stage finish. “it was a pleasure to be able to race with Mark. I already always had a good relationship with him in the peloton,” he said.

“It’s such a shame and so sad that such a legend has to finish the Tour like this,” Pedersen added.

The peloton set off from sunny Libourne, surrounded by the dense vineyards of Southwestern France, overshadowed by a set of fraught sprint stages and a tense general classification battle. The 200.7km to Limoges looked sure to favour the race’s strongmen and puncheurs in the lumpy final kilometres.

Of course, a win from the break was also a strong possibility, and so once the race’s neutralisation ended attacks came from across the peloton in quick succession.

Kasper Asgreen (Soudal-Quick Step) and Rui Costa (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty), were the first to attack but were unable to ride clear of a pacey peloton. They certainly weren’t the last to compete for a position in the day’s break.

With the peloton rolling over the first 20km at a speed of 54kph, it was a trial to establish any gap over the bunch. Eventually, a trio of Tim Declercq (Soudal-Quick Step), Anthony Delaplace (Arkéa Samsic) and Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies) stretched out a small advantage and eventually broke the elastic with 170km remaining.

Mark Cavendish receives medical attention after suffering a tour ending crash.

As the peloton rolled through iconic fields of sunflowers, a handful of riders tried to bridge the gap, including multiple attempts from Andrey Amador (EF Education-EasyPost), but none proved successful. It was soon clear that the three leaders were set to ride alone as the day’s main break, and they stretched out a lead of five minutes within the first 80km.

The breakaway enjoyed a free run at the intermediate sprint points in the first half of the course, with Delaplace beating Turgis on the line for the green jersey points and cash prize. Behind them, Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) was forced to throw his bike at the line as Danny van Poppel (Bora–Hansgrohe) and Jordi Meeus (Bora–Hansgrohe) challenged the green jersey holder. Philipsen’s fourth place and 13 points saw him solidify his lead in the points classification.

With 100km remaining the break was four minutes ahead of the peloton, and the gap remained at that margin until the 80km mark, and was chipped down to three mins as the race reached the category 3 climb at 70km remaining. Lidl-Trek were conspicuous at the front of the peloton, battling to deliver Mads Pedersen to a potential stage victory.

Atop the category 3 climb, Turgis crosses the KOM point first and the break left no points for the peloton, doing nothing to threaten Neilson Powless’ (EF Education-EasyPost) lead in the climbing classification.

It wasn’t long before attention moved away from the battle for the stage win, though, when just outside 60km to go Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) crashed amid the peloton in a clash of wheels. Live images showed Cavendish ominously gripping his collarbone, minutes before he was attended to by race doctors and ultimately left the Tour de France in an ambulance – with his abandonment confirmed by the race and team within minutes.

Despite a likely wave of surprise across race radio, the peloton continued as the Tour always must, and chipped away at the advantage of the breakaway as the gap wilted to below 2 minutes and the race crossed the 40km to go mark.

Shortly afterwards, Tour of Flanders winner Kasper Asgreen attacked the peloton at 37km to go, and stretched out his advantage to 20 seconds over the peloton over the next 5km.

Tim Declercq, Anthony Delaplace and Anthony Turgis pictured in the break.

Despite lurking within sight of the peloton, Asgreen managed to maintain his lead over the next 10km, while up ahead Declercq was allowed some respite in the breakaway as his teammate attempted to bride from behind.

With 21km remaining, Asgreen was swallowed up by the peloton, as the breakaway held a narrow one-minute gap over the peloton.

With 16km to go, the Côte de Masmont saw the peloton tear into the advantage of the breakaway, as Trugis dropped Delaplace and then Declercq to continue solo toward the finish.

Jumbo-Visma pushed the peloton into the final 10km mark, protecting both Vingegaard in the GC competition and offering Wout van Aert a chance for the sprint as the final 1km climb threatened to create a split in the group.

With 8.5km remaining, the remnant of the breakaway had been caught, as Turgis was absorbed back into the peloton as the attacks ahead of the final climb began, led by Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Dstny). It wasn’t enough to disrupt the main sprint teams, though.

A crash in the final 6km saw Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla) among the fallers, robbing him of vital seconds in the general classification, while Steff Cras (TotalEnergies) was forced to abandon.

Into the final 5km, it was an all-out battle for position between the sprinters, puncheurs and GC contenders.

The peloton passes through a large sunflower field.

With 1km to go, it was clear the race was set for an uphill sprint finish, where Pedersen took his perfectly-executed win.

The yellow caravan returns to the Puy de Dôme for tomorrow’s stage 9. The Tour hasn’t used the dormant volcano since 1988. It’s a monster of 13.3 kilometres long with the last climbing at more than 11% towards the crater at the top. The race totals 182.4 kilometres.

The list of Tour stage winners at the Puy de Dôme is impressive. Fausto Coppi, Federico Bahamontes, Julio Jimenez, Felice Gimondi, Luis Ocana, Joop Zoetemelk. They all won on the flanks of the volcano with the magical aura. Zoetemelk even won twice.

The name of the last stage winner Johnny Weltz might not ring a bell. The Dane participated four times on the Tour de France and reached the summit of a col on one occasion. Which was enough to be added to above list.

The 13.3 kilometres climb averages 7.7%. The first 5 kilometres go up at around 7% and after an easygoing section the last 4.3 kilometres are the exact opposite. The gradient never falls below 11% in this part of the climb.

So, most climbing is packed together in the finale, but the route to the foot of the finish climb is far from flat either. The first 25 kilometres are slightly undulating before the Côte du Lac de Vassivière offers a gentle way to stretch the legs – 4.4 kilometres at 4%, not enough for a KOM classification, but a perfect launch pad for breakaway riders.

The gradients kick up a notch on the subsequent climbs – Côte de Felletin (2.1 kilometres at 5.2%), Côte de Pontcharraud (1.8 kilometres at 4.6%), Côte de Pontaumur (3.3 kilometres at 5.3%) – before another unclassified uphill begins 42 kilometres before the finish. The Col de la Nugère is actually a prolonged false flat – 9.2 kilometres at 2.8% – and subsequently the riders plunge down a 15 kilometres descent to the base of the Puy de Dôme.

Stage 8 result:

  1. Mads Pederson (DEN, Lidl – Trek) 4:12:26
  2. Jasper Philipsen (BEL, Alpecin – Deceuninck) +0″
  3. Wout van Aert (BEL, Jumbo-Visma) +0″
  4. Dylan Groenewegen (NED, Jayco AlUla) +0″
  5. Nils Eekhoff (NED, Team DSM – Firmenich) +0″
  6. Bryan Coquard (FRA, Cofidis) +0″
  7. Jasper De Buyst (BEL, Lotto Dstny) +0″
  8. Rasmus Tiller (NOR, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) +0″
  9. Corbin Strong (NZL, Israel – Premier Tech) +0″
  10. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +0″

General Classification:

  1. Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 34h 10’03”
  2. Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +25″
  3. Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:34″
  4. Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +3:30″
  5. Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +3:40″
  6. Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +4:01″
  7. David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama – FDJ) +4:03″
  8. Romain Bardet (FRA, Team DSM – Firmenich) +4:43″
  9. Thomas Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) +4:43″
  10. Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +5:28″

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