Where do even start with this one?
The eighth stage of the Tour de France was action-packed from start to finish. The breakaway, if you can even call it a breakaway, took nearly two hours to establish, and when the move finally formed, it contained nearly 50 riders. Among those in front, Cannondale-Drapac was represented by Alberto Bettiol, Simon Clarke and Andrew Talansky. The chaos came as no surprise to Clarke, who predicted a fierce battle for the stage win and a potential skirmish between the general contenders.
“I knew it would be crazy, but it was even more nuts that I expected,” admitted Clarke. “I seriously felt like we never stopped attacking the whole day. With such a big breakaway, there’s never going to be good cohesion. As we saw today, it was constantly aggressive. It was really important that Alberto, Andrew and I covered as many moves as we could.”
The “mini-peloton” split apart on the Côte de Viry.
“With three guys in the big group and the opportunistic mentality we have here at the Tour, we wanted to profit from our good position,” Clarke explained. “When we found ourselves behind the front group, we had to do something about that. We decided to get Alberto to close that gap and it was up to Andrew or I to make sure one of us made the front group. Andrew tried from the bottom of the climb, and when he was caught back, I covered the counter-move, which was the one that got across.”
Clarke eventually settled into an eight-rider escape. The leaders started the final climb one minute ahead of the peloton.
“It was always going to be tough for me on the final climb given the composition of the breakaway,” said Clarke. “I was with former GC guys like Gesink, Barguil and Roche. Unfortunately I had spent quite a few matches on the category two climb to cover the attacks that eventually saw me get across. I had already tapped into the red zone a fair bit before hitting the final climb. I did everything I could, but it wasn’t enough to match the front guys I was with.”
Up the final climb, Clarke slid back to the peloton. Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) went on to win the stage from the escape ahead of Gesink. Nate Brown was the best-placed #GreenArgyle — sixth place in the yellow jersey group for ninth place on the stage.
“I have a pretty good feeling about the stage,” said Clarke. “It’s one I circled from a month or two ago. I was definitely going to go all in for today’s stage. I’m happy I was able to follow enough of the right attacks to be in front and amongst it. It was good to be in a position to contest the stage although obviously I would have liked to have gone better on the final climb. It wasn’t to be today.”