The first finish in the mountains at the 2014 Tour de France went to a Frenchman, Blel Kadri, on Saturday. It's the first win for a Frenchman in this Tour.
In what turned out to be another rainy day at the Tour, a five-man breakaway group took off early and with the climbs ahead, the peloton didn't bother to chase, giving the group of Kadri, Sylvain Chavanel, Niki Terpstra, Adrien Petit and Simon Yates a chance at a stage victory.
Kadri was the man who seized it, pulling away from the leading pack with a surge up the final climbs and built up a comfortable margin to give him a taxing yet comfortable final climb to the finish.
Just as important, though, was what was happening behind them with the Yellow Jersey classification. Italian Vincenzo Nibali was able to hang on to the Yellow and in pretty impressive fashion. His biggest threat to his lead came from Alberto Contador, who tried to accelrate past Nibali, but the man in Yellow stayed with him all the way to the line. The two finished second and third on the stage behind Kadri with Contador gaining just three seconds on Nibali.
While Contador wasn't able to gain much time on Nibali, he and the man in Yellow did put distance between themselves and the rest of the field with their strong climbs. It was a day that should carry a big impact moving forward not only in the time gains and the competition being thinned out but in terms of statements being made. Contador looked relatively smooth on the climbs and like he has plenty more in the tank while Nibali showed he can keep hanging and climb with the best of them.
Richie Porte was able to stay in sight of Nibali and Contador and finished seven seconds behind Contador, dropping four seconds to Nibali. However the gains he made on the rest of the field were substantial in some cases to move him up the standings. He's the new team leader for Sky and their hope for a podium finish after defending champion Chris Froome had to bow out of the race.
On the American front, Tejay van Garderen, who had (another) tough crash on Friday, finished in eighth place, 20 seconds behind Nibali. He now stands in 13th place overall, 3:34 back of Nibali.
However it wasn't as good of a day for Andrew Talansky, who began the day seventh overall in the GC standings. He was involved in a crash on the final decline and finished more than two minutes behind Nibali, dropping him out of the top 10. It could be a crash that ends the hopes for a podium finish for the Miami native, even if the Tour still has a long way to go. He is in 16th, 4:22 back.
Here is how the top 10 looks after the first stage involving true climbs of the Tour. Nibali continues to look strong in holding onto his Yellow Jersey.
1. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA)
2. Jakob Fuglsang (DEN) +1:44
3. Richie Porte (AUS) +1.58
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) +2.26
5. Alejando Valverde (ESP) +2:27
6. Alberto Contador (ESP) +2.34
7. Romain Bardet (FRA) +2:39
8. Rui Costa (POR) +2:52
9. Bauke Mollema (NED) +3:02
10. Jurgen van den Broeck (BEL) +3:02
Photo of the day
We're actually going with a GIF for the day, Kadri's final climb. Once he passed the one kilometer to go banner, it was abundantly clear he was going to stroll to victory so his team car came up to congratulate him. Nothing like a relaxing final climb to the cheers of the French crowd on the way to a clear win ... and a little love from your team car.
Following an uphill finish on Saturday, the riders will take off from Gerardmer and hit the mountains for Stage 9, lots of mountains. Right off the starting line there is a category two climb and in total the stage will feature three category threes, two category twos and one category one, the first of this Tour.
There is at least a little respite as the final 40-plus kilometers on the ride into Mulhouse will be downhill, which might give some riders who perhaps lost a little time on the climbs to try and make it up.
Believe it or not, Stage 9 isn't even classified as a mountain stage, it's "hilly." Monday will be the first official mountain stage but it's sure going to look like a mountain stage on Sunday's 170 kilometer trek.