Frenchman Lilian Calmejane of Direct Energie soloed to victory on stage 8 to Les Rousses, mimicking his compatriot Sylvain Chavanel who did it seven years ago and winning at the age of 24 the same way he did as a neo pro at the Vuelta a España last year. It was a very eventful race with top class contenders in the different breakaways but Chris Froome managed to retain the yellow jersey ahead of grueling climbs on the way to Chambéry.
193 riders started stage 8 in Dole. As expected on a stage dedicated to attackers, many skirmishes took place from the gun. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data), Gianluca Brambilla (Quick-Step Floors), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) and Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale-Drapac) formed the first breakaway of the day. It didn't work out but Chavanel went again, accompanied by Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) and Alexey Lutsenko (Astana). Beaten by André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) increased his lead in the points classification over runner up Arnaud Démare (FDJ) who struggled badly in the first climb of the day, as well as Team Sky's Luke Rowe. Mathias Frank (AG2R-La Mondiale), Jasha Sütterlin (Movistar), Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) rode away after 50km of racing. Sütterlin was substituted by Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) in the leading quartet but it was all together again at km 70.
46 riders managed to go clear after 75km of racing. 16 of them formed a leading group with 98km to go: Jan Bakelants and Mathias Frank (AG2R-La Mondiale), Koen de Kort (Trek-Segafredo), Michael Schär and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Michael Valgren (Astana), Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors), Emanuel Buchmann and Marcus Burghardt (Bora-Hansgrohe), Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Warren Barguil and Laurens ten Dam (Sunweb), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale-Drapac). Barguil and Pauwels rode away in the col de la Joux with 92km to go. The Frenchman and the Belgian were still part of a group of seven riders who climbed the côte de Viry at the front before a regrouping. At the initiative of Van Avermaet, they went again before the top of the hill where Barguil outsprinted Bakelants and an eight-man group was formed with 48km to go: Jan Bakelants (AG2R-La Mondiale), Nicolas Roche and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), Warren Barguil (Sunweb), Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) and Simon Clarke (Cannondale-Drapac).
Michael Valgren (Astana) rejoined the leading group at St-Claude with 25km to go. In the first category Montée de la Combe de Laisia les Molunes, Calmejane rode away solo as there were 17km remaining before the finish. He suffered cramps with 5km to go but managed to overcome the pain to maintain his 40 seconds advantage over lone chaser Gesink. It's his first Tour de France victory and the second for a French rider this year after Arnaud Démare on stage 4 in Vittel. Calmejane also took the polka dot jersey while Chris Froome retained the lead in the overall ranking.
“It was an extremely fast pace today. Everybody expected that. Chances for guys to really go for the break were high. There was a lot of chaos at the beginning. I'm not sure about tomorrow, it's a really tough day. It could be raining too. Many riders today were worried about tomorrow.”
“I hope everyone enjoyed the show. As a team, we had decided to go on the offensive and it paid off. In the finale, I knew Gesink wasn't far behind. But I didn't give anything away. I got a bit scared when I cramped between 6 and 4km to go but I had the experience of the same thing happening at Tour de l'Ain last year and I knew what to do. What a relief when I crossed the line. It's fantastic. This is the way of racing I like. I'm a rider with a lot of panache. I don't like chasing World Tour points or a place on GC. We'll see what my future is like. I'm not the future Bernard Hinault. This is my first Tour de France. It's too early to tell what lies ahead for me. As per the polka dot jersey, there are a lot of points tomorrow, so the jersey will be on someone else's shoulder. I'll be in the unknown after spending so much energy today, maybe a bit more than the other riders, but later on in the race and in years to come, the polka dot jersey could become a goal because the points scale makes it accessible to attackers as well as pure climbers.”
"For my first discovery of the mountains in the Tour, to finish third is obviously a super stage for me. It was fast, very fast all day. There were a lot of attacks. When I saw the first group, or should I say bunch, go away, I was a little frustrated not to be in it. But then we made it back. I was feeling good, I tried to anticipate the big battle and eventually they did not come back. I did not take a lot of time for the GC but I'm still glad about this stage. For the stage win, the gap was too important. For my first Tour, for the first Tour of my team, it's fantastic, we're making a great Tour debut, we're in the breakaways everyday. It's nothing but pleasure."
“I had only one goal today: the intermediate sprint at km 45. It's been one of the hardest sprints I contested since the beginning of the Tour but at the end of the day, it's a good day for the green jersey.”
My two guardian angels, Mickael Delage and Ignatas Konovalovas were truly exceptional. I struggled to recuperate from the last couple of days. I didn't rebuild my stock of glycogen like I should. I'm not ill, I'm dreadful. Clearly today I was dreadful. Thanks again to my guardian angels. The way they rode today was not work, it was love. Tomorrow is another day, the gruppetto will take shape earlier."
"Today some teams wanted the yellow jersey. I guess Pierre Latour was up for it, or Mathias Frank, so we couldn't let them go. We've had to ride at the very high tempo behind them. After the hard stage we've had, tomorrow can be a very decisive day. The incident I had in a corner was a little bit of a reminder of how quickly things can change in the Tour de France. It can the moment that end your race but Geraint Thomas is alright and I didn't fall.