Pinot wins 8th stage of Tour de France
By Jamey Keaten ,AP
July 10, 2012, 12:41 am TWN
PORRENTRUY, Switzerland -- Thibaut Pinot gave France its first stage victory in the Tour de France on Sunday while Bradley Wiggins of Britain kept the overall lead as the race entered Switzerland.
Pinot broke away from the pack during a steep, final climb and captured the 157.5kilometer (98-mile), eighth stage from Belfort to the Swiss town of Porrentruy. The 22-year-old Frenchman, the youngest rider in the main pack, held on during a frenzied chase in the last 10 kilometers (6 miles), a mostly flat stretch.
This was by far Pinot's biggest achievement. His previous top performance was at the 2010 Tour of Romandie, where he was honored as the best climber.
"I will remember this day my entire life," Pinot said as teammates embraced him. "I can't yet get my mind around it."
Overall, Wiggins leads defending champion Cadel Evans by 10 seconds. The Australian mounted a late but unsuccessful attack on the Briton. Italy's Vincenzo Nibali was third, 16 seconds off the pace.
Defending Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez withdrew after a crash 56 kilometers (35 miles) into the stage. He broke his right hand and injured his left shoulder, and could miss the London Games.
Sanchez fell on his side before two other riders landed on him. He sat on the ground in tears, clutching his left shoulder and arm as medical teams tended to him. He could not get back on a bike and was put on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital in Montbeliard.
Sanchez entered the day in 12th place. Crashes have marred the first week of the Tour, with nearly all of the 20 riders who have withdrawn from the race thus far out with injury.
Evans was second, 26 seconds behind Pinot — the same time as Wiggins and seven other riders, including several title contenders.
The ride into the Jura range next to the Alps, known as the birthplace of the Swiss army knife, offered double drama: A hard last climb that splintered the pack, and a nail-biting chase of Pinot to the finish.
The day's last, and the steepest climb over the 3.7-kilometer (2.2-mile) Col de la Croix, obliterated the pack, with riders like Alejandro Valverde of Spain and Peter Sagan of Slovakia dropping off the back.
Frederik Kessiakov of Sweden pressed the pace, but Wiggins and others, chasing the title, were content to let him go. The Astana rider began the day in 80th place, 19 minutes behind the British race leader.
Pinot, bounding out of his saddle with powerful legs, chased uphill and then sped past Kessiakov with a few hundred meters left before the peak of the Col de la Croix — and held on all the way to the finish.
Wiggins called the stage "a tough day on the team," referring to his British squad Team Sky, and said he was content to get through it: "Another tough day ticked off."
But Wiggins enjoyed the late jockeying.
"It was good fun coming in at the end there," he said. "It was a bit like being in a junior race again. Everyone attacking in ones and twos. It's good — it's what it's all about."
Wiggins also hailed a "fantastic ride" by Pinot. "It was a tough day out there and to do that last 10 to 15k into a headwind, solo, it shows how good he is," the Briton said.
Monday's stage returns to favorable territory for riders like Wiggins and Evans: A time-trial. Riders will set off one by one in the 41.5-kilometer (26-mile) race against the clock from Arc-en-Senans to Besancon.