CY­CLING

Calme­jane avoids ‘catas­tro­phe’ to win maiden Tour stage

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

STA­TION DES ROUSSES: French­man Lil­ian Calme­jane came close to “catas­tro­phe” be­fore win­ning his maiden Tour de France stage yes­ter­day. The 24year-old suf­fered cramps over the last four kilo­me­tres of the 187.5km eighth stage from Dole to Sta­tion des Rouses, but kept his nerve to fin­ish 37 sec­onds clear of Dutch­man Robert Gesink.

“It’s huge, I can barely be­lieve it, it’s pretty much ev­ery­thing I was dream­ing of at the start,” said Calme­jane, who is rid­ing his first Tour and only second Grand Tour hav­ing also won a stage at last year’s Vuelta a Es­pana.

“Last year at the Vuelta I won in a sim­i­lar man­ner; it’s my first Tour, the eighth stage: a won­der­ful vic­tory. “Four kilo­me­tres from the end and at the fin­ish I had cramps ev­ery time I straight­ened my leg and I wasn’t far away from a catas­tro­phe.

“But to­day was my day.” The Direct En­ergie rider also claimed the polka­dot king of the moun­tains jer­sey for his ef­forts on the hilly stage, tak­ing it off Italy’s Fabio Aru, win­ner of Wed­nes­day’s fifth stage. Af­ter a break­neck start to the stage that saw nu­mer­ous at­tacks fail to stay away as a fluid race sit­u­a­tion reigned, even­tu­ally a group of 46 rid­ers were able to get clear of the pelo­ton be­fore that then splin­tered.

A group of nine rid­ers made it to the bot­tom of the first cat­e­gory climb 24km from the fin­ish but by the sum­mit, 12km from the line, Calme­jane was alone with only Gesink able to give chase. Calme­jane had a 30-second lead by then and he in­creased it on the plateau to the fin­ish de­spite eas­ing up at one point to stretch his legs due to cramp, to win by 37sec.

The Team Sky-led pelo­ton mopped up the rem­nants of the break­away as Guil­laume Martin took third at 50sec. But all the top chal­lengers were in that group, mean­ing there was no change in the stand­ings as Froome main­tained his 12sec lead over com­pa­triot and Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas and 14sec to Aru.

Froome had his own scare when he briefly went off piste a lit­tle over 50km from the fin­ish but he stayed upright and quickly re­joined the road. “There was a lit­tle mo­ment, there was a right­hand bend, my­self and my team-mate Geraint Thomas didn’t take the right tra­jec­tory, but some­times it’s like that,” said a smil­ing Froome on French tele­vi­sion. He had claimed on Fri­day that Satur­day’s stage wouldn’t see much in the way of a bat­tle amongst the top con­tenders and it proved the case as the favourites opted to keep the pow­der dry ahead of Sun­day’s gru­elling moun­tain stage that in­cludes three hors cat­e­gory climbs.

“I think af­ter to­day’s tough stage, to­mor­row (Sun­day) will be very, very hard and very se­lec­tive for the over­all con­tenders,” added Froome. “And def­i­nitely there will be rid­ers who gain time and oth­ers who lose time.” To­day’s ninth stage is 181.5km long from Nan­tua with seven cat­e­gorised climbs, in­clud­ing the three steep­est of this year’s race, and a tech­ni­cal de­scent to the fin­ish in Cham­bery.

—AP

DOLE: France’s Lil­ian Calme­jane cel­e­brates on the podium af­ter win­ning the eighth stage of the Tour de France cy­cling race over 187.5 kilo­me­ters (116.5 miles) with start in Dole and fin­ish in Sta­tion des Rousses, France, yes­ter­day.

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