Saturday, August 13, 2022

Cycling: Van Aert wins again as Pogacar consolidates Tour lead

Cycling: Van Aert wins again as Pogacar consolidates Tour lead
July 9, 2022 Reuters

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - Wout van Aert consolidated his lead in the Tour de France points classification with a late burst of speed on Saturday to win the eighth stage of cycling’s biggest race, a hilly 186.3-km ride from Dole to Lausanne across the border in Switzerland.

The Belgian bagged his second stage win in this edition in a reduced bunch sprint at the top of the Cote du Stade Olympique, a 4.8-km effort at an average gradient of 4.6%.

Green jersey holder Van Aert, who now has a 115-point lead in the points classification over Dutchman Fabio Jakobsen, beat Australian Michael Matthews after launching his sprint with 200 metres left. “Before the Tour we had marked the Longwy and Lausanne stages for me,” said Van Aert.

“I’m very happy, very proud to finish off the work of the team. The climb was not too long. On the steepest parts I was on the limit but I knew the last 200-300 metres were flatter.” Tadej Pogacar took third place to retain his overall leader’s yellow jersey, picking up a four-second time bonus in the process.

Sunday’s ninth stage is a 192.9-km mountainous trek from Aigle, Switzerland, to Chatel back in France as the threat of COVID-19 loomed large on the race. France’s Geoffrey Bouchard and Pogacar’s team mate Vegard Stake Laengen both pulled out of the Tour before the start after testing positive and showing symptoms.

“It’s a big scare, two riders infected, but this pandemic is here and we cannot risk riding ill,” said Pogacar.

“We test every two or three days. Yesterday we were all negative but Vegard had a sore throat overnight and he was positive this morning.”

MASS PILE-UP

Pogacar was involved in an early mass pile-up that brought two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana, two-time podium finisher Romain Bardet and fellow Frenchman David Gaudu, as well as 2018 champion Geraint Thomas, to the ground - or into a grassy ditch.

None of them appeared to have been injured. A three-man breakaway featuring Mattia Cattaneo, Frederik Frison and Fred Wright built up a lead of around three minutes on the peloton but they were kept on a tight leash.

Australian Ben O’Connor, fourth overall last year, struggled throughout the day with hip pains following a crash in Wednesday’s fifth stage. He received treatment from the race doctor and ground his way through the stage.

Wright, who had dropped Frison and Cattaneo, was finally caught with 3.5 kilometres remaining as Pogacar’s UAE Emirates team mate Rafal Majka rode a hard tempo in front of a skimming peloton.

Pogacar took a chance in the final sprint but Van Aert had too much power for him, and the Jumbo-Visma rider claimed an eighth career win on the Tour in awe-inspiring fashion.