Tour de France 2024 stage eight preview - a battle between the sprinters and the breakaway

Despite being categorised as a flat stage, the route features 2,334 metres of elevation and five categorised climbs

Date: Saturday July 6, 2024
Distance: 183km
Start location: Semur-en-Auxois
Finish location: Colombey-les-Deux-Églises
Start time: 13:05 CET
Finish time (approx): 17:19 CET

This year’s Tour de France takes place amid a political earthquake, in the middle of a snap election called by Emmanuel Macron just three weeks before the race began. So it seems appropriate that stage eight, taking place the very day before the public goes to the polls to decide their president, pays homage to Charles De Gaulle, the man whose legacy looms larger than any other political figure of the 20th century. If a new president is elected, they will succeed him in becoming the eighth of the Fifth Republic, that De Gaulle himself founded in 1958

The small town of Colombey, where stage eight finishes after heading north out of Côte-d'Or and into Haute-Marne, is small and innocuous, and the Tour wouldn’t have any reason to visit were it not for being where De Gaulle spent much of his life. He escaped to its seclusion in between his various stints in power; first in 1946, after having helped lead the Resistance against the Nazis, and briefly chaired the Provisional Government; then later, having returned to office in 1958 in light of the Algerian War crisis, he came back home once more in 1969 in the aftermath of the worker and student protests of the year before, until his death in 1970. The large, 44 metre Cross of Lorraine stands in Colombey to commemorate him. 

Although the parcours looks flat at a cursory glance, closer inspection reveals plenty of details to suggest it might not be a sprinter who triumphantly uncorks a bottle of the champagne sourced from the nearby vineyards at the finish. There are five classified climbs in total, and, though none last longer than 3km, and the two hardest (Côte de Villy-en-Auxois and Côte de Verrey-sous-Salmaise, both rated category three) are tackled early on in the stage, there are steep enough gradients and enough of them to wear away at the legs all day. And there are plenty of undulations that go unaccounted for, too, amounting to a total of 2,400m elevation gain, twice as much as any of the previous flat stages this week.

The real kicker comes at the very end, though, with a final kilometre that rises at a 3% gradient. Even if they can survive the day’s climb fresh enough to still be in contention, there will be some sprinters for whom this will be the death knell to their chances. The chasing could therefore be up to different teams than those who did the legwork on previous days, if the latter believe this finish doesn’t suit their man. And if not enough teams commit to chasing, a breakaway victory will be nailed on. 

 

Tour de France 2024 stage eight profile preview

Route profile sourced via ASO

Contenders

Stage eight is a tough one to call as the victory could go to either a sprinter or a breakaway artist. If it does come down to a sprint, it will be amongst those sprinters who are also able to climb well. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) will therefore be a favourite going into this stage. He boasts both the climbing abilities and the fast finish, and he proved this in the Tour’s opening stage to Rimini, where he placed seventh on the stage. He did suffer a crash on stage five, but seems to have recovered well. 

Another sprinter whose talent goes beyond a fast finish is Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck). He was this year’s Milan-Sanremo winner and was third at Paris-Roubaix, but has not had the most successful Tour de France so far, with no stage win and a relegation penalty. The Alpecin rider will be keen to secure a stage win, so will be keen to contest the sprint if it comes down to it. Alpecin, however, may fancy their chances with the current world champ Mathieu van der Poel, a rider who dominated the Classics races earlier this year. 

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) on the other hand has had a successful race so far, becoming the first black African rider to win a stage at the Tour de France. His form is looking good and we know he has the abilities to tackle some steep ascents, having previously won Gent-Wevelgem. The same goes for Arnaud De Lie (Lotto Dstny), who can both sprint and climb, or his teammate Maxim Van Gils

Another contender could be Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike), who may want to try and take this stage. He’s a strong all rounder and will be allowed to go for his own chances throughout the race. Michael Matthews (Jayco-Alula) will also be suited to this type of parcours and may try and go for the stage win. He was second at Milan-Sanremo this year, just out-sprinted by Philipsen. 

If it is the breakaway who makes it to the line first, we expect to see riders such as EF Education-EasyPost riders Marijn van den Berg and Ben Healy, Uno-X Mobility’s Magnus Cort, Intermarché’s Mike Teunissen, or Movistar’s Alex Aranburu. It’ll be a tough ask with several sprinters still vying for a stage victory and a potential sprint up for grabs, however, if the breakaway can work together, it looks like a stage for them.

Stage eight winner prediction

We think the green jersey wearer Biniam Girmay will win stage eight of the Tour de France.

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