Stage 8: Figeac - Toulouse 173km

By AFP

Saturday, July 12, 2008 4.00pm

British sprinter takes second stage win

Britain's Mark Cavendish reinforced his claim to be the world's fastest man on two wheels by claiming his second stage win on the Tour de France in Toulouse on Saturday.

Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen, also of the Columbia team, retained the race leader's yellow jersey six seconds ahead of Australian Cadel Evans ahead of Sunday's first day in the high mountains.

After a rain-lashed day of racing out of the Massif Central towards the foot of the Pyrenees Cavendish's team once again proved strongest in the final kilometres of the 172.5km eighth stage which began in Figeac.

Setting up a 'train' to help deliver Cavendish to the finish with as much punch in his legs as possible, the 23-year-old from the Isle of Man repaid their efforts with a victorious drive across the line.

In second place was Cavendish's lead-out man, former under-23 world champion Gerald Ciolek of Germany, while Frenchman Jimmy Casper took third place ahead of Spain's three-time world champion Oscar Freire.

Cavendish's maiden stage win on the Tour came in similar fashion on the fifth stage at Chateauroux, after which he claimed that with a team like his to help him, he couldn't help being the "best sprinter in the world".

Ahead of potentially race-changing stages in the Pyrenees, Columbia have become the dominant force on the Tour - a fact Cavendish was quick to confirm after their disciplined lead-out train worked again to perfection.

"It was brilliant. Once again you can see how well my team performed," said Cavendish.

"They nursed me back after I dropped off the back on the third category climb, they controlled the day, brought in the breakaway and then led me out excellently.

"The flat run in was ideally suited for us and you can see how well Gerald did to lead me out because he took second. To hold on to the yellow jersey and to get both first and second in the stage - it can't really get any better can it?"

Ahead of two days of tough climbing in the Pyrenees, the yellow jersey battle took a virtual back seat leading the peloton gradually towards the foot of the mountains.

Early attacks were kept on a tight leash, and it took the determination of Laurent Lefevre to finally break the peloton's resistance.

After being at the front over three small climbs he was joined by Euskaltel's Amets Txurruka, Bouygues Telecom teammate Jerome Pineau and Christophe Riblon finally joined him.

But their five-minute lead at the halfway stage was eventually slashed after the Credit Agricole team of sprinter Thor Hushovd and Freire's Rabobank team took over the chase.

Only Pineau and Txurruka remained in the final 3km, after which Columbia appeared at the front to help set up their train for Cavendish, with Kirchen not far behind as he aimed to keep hold of the yellow jersey.

A late attempt by the Quick Step team of Gert Steegmans, who has yet to win a stage on this year's race, pulled up the left hand-side in the final 600 metres.

However Columbia were not to be denied.

Cavendish stayed on the wheels that mattered and pulled out from behind Ciolek to seal the win.

In the melee Kirchen lost the points competition's green jersey to Freire, but for the moment the Luxemburger is enjoying his time in a more prestigious one.

"It's been three days in a row in the yellow jersey, I can't believe it. All the people on the side of the road have been really good to me," said Kirchen, who on Thursday became the first cyclist from his country to wear the yellow jersey since the great Charly Gaul last wore it in 1959.

"It's every rider's dream - and I've waited ten years to achieve it."

For full results, report and photos from Stage 8, visit Cyclingnews.com. Click here for Stage 8 video highlights, and for the audiophiles, click here to listen to BikeRadar's daily Tour podcasts.  

BikeRadar and AFP 2008

STAGE 8 RESULTS

Results Stage 8

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia                         4.02.54 (42.61km/h)

2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team Columbia                                 

3 Jimmy Casper (Fra) Agritubel                                      

4 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank                                 

5 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                 

6 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram                                      

7 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step                                   

8 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux                       

9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole                                

10 Robert Hunter (RSA) Barloworld                                   

11 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel                                    

12 Mark Renshaw (Aus) Crédit Agricole                               

13 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                     

14 Iñaki Isasi Flores (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                     

15 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas                                 

16 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner                             

17 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto                              

18 Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone           

19 Julian Dean (NZl) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30                   

20 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne

General classification after stage 8

1 Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia                                          32.26.34

2 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto                                                    0.06

3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner                                              0.16

4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30       0.44

5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank                                                       1.03

6 Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                     1.12

7 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30                        1.14

8 Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step                                                        1.21

9 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne                          

10 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Team Columbia                              

11 Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                     1.27

12 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                        1.34

13 Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                                  1.56

14 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC - Saxo Bank                                  1.58

15 Bernhard Kohl (Aut) Gerolsteiner                                                    2.03

16 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Cofidis - Le Crédit par Téléphone               2.07

17 Damiano Cunego (Ita) Lampre                                                          2.09

18 Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi                      2.16

19 Tadej Valjavec (Slo) AG2R La Mondiale                                         2.19

20 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas                                                      2.20

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