Van Aert wins 8th stage of Tour, Pogačar extends lead

Belgian Wout van Aert won stage eight of the Tour de France in Switzerland on Saturday and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar improved slightly

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) – Belgium’s Wout van Aert won stage eight of the Tour de France in Switzerland on Saturday and two-time defending champion Tadej Pogačar slightly extended his overall lead.

Van Aert, who won stage four and wore the yellow jersey for three days, edged out Michael Matthews in the finish sprint at the summit finish.

Pogačar was third, with the Slovenian collecting more valuable bonus seconds at the end of the hilly 186-kilometer (116-mile) route from Dole in eastern France to Lausanne.

“I’m super happy,” said Van Aert. “I’m really glad my team gave their all to chase the breakaway and then you have to finish it.

“It was a pretty tough (final) climb… very steep so I had to fight to stay on the bike with Pogačar and his teammates, but I knew if I could stay on the bike the sprint would be a little flatter than I have at this moment I waited.”

Pogačar, who won both previous stages, narrowly missed a hat-trick of wins, extending his lead to 39 seconds over Jonas Vingegaard and 1:14 over 2018 winner Geraint Thomas.

“It wasn’t that far away but it was a fun game today. I might have hesitated a bit and Van Aert overtook me at super speed. Sure it’s a bit disappointing but third place is still great,” said Pogačar, who drives for UAE team Emirates.

“I always love to sprint, but when I was younger I was the smallest and almost always the last one. So I’m very happy that now, at least when things go up, I can end up with a solid sprint, but still not as close as Matthews and Van Aert.”

There was worrying news before the day started as Geoffrey Bouchard and Vegard Stake Laengen became the first riders to exit the race after testing positive for the coronavirus. Several support staff have also tested positive.

American cyclist Kevin Vermaercke had to abandon the stage early after being involved in a crash at the end of the peloton shortly after the start.

The peloton regrouped, but the chaos gave the breakaway riders the opening they needed. Mattia Cattaneo, Fred Wright and Frederik Frison quickly built up a lead of around three minutes.

The trio led for most of the day. Frison was the first to be dropped as they headed towards the penultimate of the three categorized climbs. Then it was Cattaneo’s turn and Wright was eventually caught on the final climb with 3.5km to go.

Despite the steep climbs, the peloton raced towards the finish line. Matthews started his sprint with Pogačar in pursuit but Van Aert got around both of them to take the win.

Sunday’s ninth stage has four classified climbs – including two top category climbs – on the 193-kilometer route from Aigle in Switzerland through the Alps to the Châtel Les Portes du Soleil ski area.

RELATED: Clarke wins crash-damaged Stage 5, Van Aert retains Tour lead

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/van-aert-wins-8th-stage-of-tour-pogaar-extends-lead/281-97139830-75de-4c6c-99a0-c58c34024a21 Van Aert wins 8th stage of Tour, Pogačar extends lead

Emma Bowman

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