Girmay wins again as Tour de France remembers WWII hero De Gaulle

Intermarche – Wanty team’s Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay wearing the sprinter’s green jersey (C) cycles past the finish line to win the 8th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France cycling race, 183,5 km between Semur-en-Auxois and Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, on July 6, 2024. AFP

Eritrean sprinter Biniam Girmay won stage eight of the Tour de France on Saturday at a finish line in the village where former French president Charles de Gaulle lived and is buried.

Girmay became the first black African to win a stage on the Tour de France on stage 3.

“One win on the Tour is amazing but to win a second on a stage like this, that suits me, I feel just amazing,” said the smiley Girmay.

Overnight leader Tadej Pogacar retained his 33-second lead over Remco Evenepoel in the general standings while defending champion Jonas Vingegaard is third.

Girmay’s second stage win after his historic triumph at Turin on Monday extended his lead atop the best sprinter standings in the green jersey.

The final sprint was raced up an incline that favoured the more slightly built sprinters even though Jasper Philipsen, the 2023 green jersey, came second while Belgian 22-year-old Arnaud de Lie was third.

Girmay is the first rider to win two stages so far with rival sprinters Dylan Groenewegen and Mark Cavendish having won previous sprint stages but who were outside the top 10 Saturday.

“We had a good plan,” said Intermarche rider Girmay.

“I stayed near the front on the way up the hill and it was easy because I followed two Cofidis riders up the hill. It was like teamwork.”

Norwegian rider Jonas Abrahamsen of Uno-X raced ahead of the peloton for most of the afternoon staying ahead for 170km and extending his lead in the king of the mountains polka dot jersey race for at least two more stages.

– Hommage to de Gaulle –

The stage ended in Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises, home of de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne.

De Gaulle led the Free French during WWII and was later president and architect of the Fifth French Republic.

In a much remembered race incident in 1960 De Gaulle and his wife came out to see the Tour de France pass by their village and, seeing him there, the peloton stopped briefly to greet him.

Olympic medal hope and 2019 world road race  champion Mads Pedersen pulled out of the Tour “to focus on other goals” ahead of stage eight having failed to shake off a shoulder injury.

Sunday’s circuit around Troyes in the Champagne-growing region features 14 gravel sections in a Tour de France first, opening up to the growing popularity to gravel racing.

“There’s no favourite for tomorrow (Sunday). Maybe someone on a breakaway, Whoever wins will have to be good,” said the yellow jersey.

‘It could be chaotic’

Aiming for a Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double that was last achieved in 1998 by Marco Pantani. Pogacar dismissed any idea he might be tired.

“The Giro is already a long time ago, I don’t feel it has hurt me racing both because I have honestly never felt better. We’ll see later though, who knows,” said the 2020 and 2021 champion who races for UAE.

His twin concerns are Sunday’s gravel stage and then keeping his team focussed until they get to the mountains next weekend.

“I did a recon ride on this interesting stage,” said the race leader kitted out in a woollen hat in stark contrast to a week ago in Florence where the temperature was around 20 celsius higher on a sizzling opening day.

“You need to be careful from start to finish, it could be really chaotic.”

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