AMIENS, France – Dylan Groenewegen has turned the sprinting battle at the Tour de France into a three-man race.
The 25-year-old Dutch rider won his second consecutive stage on Saturday, joining world champion Peter Sagan and Tour newcomer Fernando Gaviria as two-stage winners at this edition of the world’s leading cycling race.
Groenewegen entered the final meters of Stage 8 behind Andre Greipel, Gaviria and Sagan, but the Team LottoNL-Jumbo rider timed his last surge perfectly, swinging around his hard-charging opponents to cross first.
“It was a hectic (finish), but that’s every day in the Tour,” Groenewegen said. “I am very happy with my team. The last two days have been very good with two wins.”
Greipel and Gaviria crossed next, but their results were disqualified after they dangerously jockeyed for position in the final meters, though they both keep their times.
Greipel boxed Gaviria in next to the barrier on the left-hand side of the street, appearing to nudge him with his side. Gaviria responded by pushing back, even knocking Greipel with his helmet.
That meant that Sagan officially finished second, with John Degenkolb in third.
“The legs have been better every day,” Groenewegen said, adding that “the team did an amazing job and put me in a great position. I saw Gaviria and Greipel were fighting for position but I saw the finish line and thought, `This is the moment.“’
Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet, who is riding in support of BMC leader Richie Porte, kept the overall lead for a fifth consecutive day.
Van Avermaet picked up a one-second bonus overall during an intermediate bonus sprint at 20K from the finish. That increased his lead over Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas in second to 7 seconds and his own BMC teammate Tejay Van Garderen to 9 seconds.
Four-time winner Chris Froome is in 12th place at 1 minute, 6 seconds behind Van Avermaet.
The mostly flat 181-kilometer (112-mile) ride from Dreux to Amiens was won by Groenewegen in 4 hours, 23 minutes. It comes before the three-week race faces one of its most difficult legs when it hits the tricky and occasionally treacherous cobblestones.
Sunday’s Stage 9 will take riders over 15 cobbled paths scattered along 21.7 kilometers of the 156.5-kilometer course from Arras to Roubaix, near the Belgian border.
Van Avermaet won the single-day cobblestone Paris-Roubaix race in 2017. He says he will try to keep the yellow jersey while his teammates work for Porte.
“We will try to do both,” the Belgian said. “We will try to keep Richie with me, but if I have to follow another rider or attack, the other six guys will take care of Richie.”
That cobblestone challenge will be followed by a rest day on Monday before the race shifts to its first mountain stages in the Alps.
Fans helped celebrate Bastille Day by waving French flags along the side of road as the riders moved north of Paris through wheat fields to Amiens, the birthplace of French President Emmanuel Macron.
This was the second consecutive “transition” stage that shifts the race across flatter areas to reach more difficult terrain. The result was another mostly calm ride.
The only incident to interrupt the leg was a pile-up with just under 20K to go. UAE Emirates leader Daniel Martin, the winner of Stage 6, bloodied his left elbow and tore the back of his shirt.
Martin and 11 other riders couldn’t reconnect and Martin lost more than a minute, falling from 21st to 31st place at 2:47 behind.
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