PORRENTRUY, Switzerland: Britain’s Bradley Wiggins defended the Tour de France yellow jersey on the second day in the hills after seeing his race lead come under attack for the first time Sunday. Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of FDJ won the eighth stage, his maiden win on what is his debut, after 157.5 km of racing over several short but steep climbs in the Swiss Jura that exacted a toll on the peloton.
Defending champion Cadel Evans finished second at 26 seconds, the Australian leading home a select group after a failed attempt to shake off Wiggins on the way to the last summit and on the 16 km descent to the finish.
Among the finishers with Evans was Italian rival Vincenzo Nibali, Frank Schleck of Luxembourg and Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck.
Wiggins, spending his first day in the yellow jersey after his third place finish Saturday at La Planche des Belles Filles, retained his 10 second lead on second placed Evans with Liquigas rider Nibali still third at 16.
Pinot, a climbing specialist who at 22-years-old is the youngest rider in this year’s race, had pressured team manager Marc Madiot to take him to the three-week epic.
And despite starting the day with instructions to stay in the peloton, he seized his chance after teammate Jeremy Roy, who had been in an earlier breakaway, was reeled in but did plenty of the groundwork for him.
Pinot eventually went off on his own and caught Swede Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana on the seventh and final climb of the day, the 3.7 km-long Col de la Croix.
He came over the summit with a small lead and rode hard on the 16 km descent to claim the first French win of this year’s renewal.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Pinot, who is from the nearby Franche-Comte region. “I just did the longest 10km of my life, I’ll never forget it. I was quite scared when I heard the peloton had closed the gap to 50 seconds.
“But a lot of this is down to Jeremy [Roy]. He did a lot of the preparation work for me, I can’t thank him enough.”
Earlier in the stage Spain’s Olympic road race champion Samuel Sanchez crashed, suffering shoulder and hand injuries that could rule him out of the London Olympics later this month.
Kessiakoff’s efforts meanwhile did not go unrewarded. He took over possession of the best climber’s polka dot jersey from Chris Froome of Team Sky.
Monday’s ninth stage is the first of two long time trials in the race, a 41.5 km race against the clock around Besancon.