Yates clings to Tour lead amid mountain shake up
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Loudenvielle (France) (AFP)
Nans Peters scored a first home stage win on the Tour de France on Saturday with Britain's Adam Yates clinging on to the overall lead on a tough Pyrenean stage that caused a shake up.
Chief amongst the day's victims was fancied French climber Thibaut Pinot, who dropped out of the race for the overall standings entirely on the penultimate climb.
Peters achieved his win over three major mountains in the presence of French Prime Minister Jean Castex, producing a brilliant long-range solo breakaway.
"I told myself, believe, believe believe," said the AG2R rider who finished the 141km run from Cazeres-sur-Garonne to Loudenvielle in just over four hours.
But there was also a ferocious battle on the final climb of the dreaded Col de Peyresourde.
Yates, defending Tour de France champion Egan Bernal and French climber Romain Bardet were all dropped and appeared doomed.
All three, however, swooped down the daredevil final descent to dramatically claw their way back closer to the two form men, Primoz Roglic and Nairo Quintana.
Slovenian rookie Tadej Pogacar conversely managed to break from this group and gain 37 seconds back of the valuable time he lost on Friday.
Drama never seems to be far away from Pinot, a hero in France whose fall 3km from the finish of stage 1 finally took a terrible toll here. Grimacing, he began clutching at his sore back on the penultimate climb when the Dutch Jumbo team put the hammer down.
His teammates fell back to help him struggle sadly up that hill, patting him on the back and comforting the emotional climber.
"I'm disgusted for him, a year's work gone up in smoke. He won't win the Tour de France and it's not because of his form," said national team boss Thomas Voekler.
Sunday's stage nine is a 153km mountain stage between Pau and Laruns with two category 1 mountains, a tricky final descent and an 8km flat run to the finish line that promises to be a desperate affair.
Then comes Monday's rest day and some anxiously awaited Covid-19 swab tests after vast crowds massed at the final summit Saturday.
© 2020 AFP