Van Aert wins Stage 8, but Pogačar extends Tour de France lead – Orange County Register


LAUSANNE, Switzerland — Belgian rider Wout van Aert won the eighth stage of the Tour de France on Saturday in Switzerland and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar slightly increased his overall lead.

Van Aert, who won stage four and wore the yellow jersey for three days, sprinted ahead of Michael Matthews to the finish line at the top.

Pogačar finished third, with the Slovenian rider reaping more valuable bonus seconds, at the end of the 186-kilometre (116-mile) hilly route from Dole in eastern France to Lausanne.

“I’m super happy,” said Van Aert. “I’m really happy that my team did everything they could to chase the breakaway and then we have to finish it.

“It was quite a tough (final) climb. . . really steep, so I had to fight to stay in the wheel of Pogačar and his teammates, but I knew that if I could stay in the wheel, the sprint would be a bit flatter so I was waiting for this moment.

Pogačar, who won the previous two stages, narrowly missed a hat-trick of victories but extended his advantage to 39 seconds over Jonas Vingaard and 1:14 ahead of 2018 winner Geraint Thomas.

“It wasn’t that far away, but it was a fun game today. I maybe hesitated a bit and Van Aert overtook me with super speed. For sure it’s a bit disappointing, but third place is still great,” said Pogačar, who rides for UAE Team Emirates.

“I’ve always loved sprinting, but when I was younger I was the smallest and almost always the last. So I’m really happy that now, at least when it goes uphill, I can do a solid sprint at the end, but still not as close as Matthews and Van Aert.

There was disconcerting news before the start of the day as Geoffrey Bouchard and Vegard Stake Laengen became the first riders to quit the race after testing positive for coronavirus. Several support staff have also tested positive.

American cyclist Kevin Vermaercke had to retire at the start of the stage after being caught in a fall at the back of the peloton shortly after the start.

The peloton regrouped but the chaos gave the breakaways the opening they needed. Mattia Cattaneo, Fred Wright and Frederik Frison quickly took a lead of about three minutes.

The trio led most of the day. Frison was the first to be dropped, as they headed for the penultimate of three graded climbs. It was then Cattaneo’s turn, and Wright was finally caught on the final climb, with 3.5 kilometers remaining.

Despite the steep slopes, the peloton raced towards the finish. Matthews started his sprint with Pogačar in pursuit, but Van Aert rounded them both to take the win.

Sunday’s ninth stage features four classified climbs – including two category one climbs – on the 193-kilometre (120-mile) course from Aigle in Switzerland through the Alps to the ski resort of Châtel Les Portes du Soleil.


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