Biniam Girmay makes it two in uphill sprint

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Biniam Girmay, winner of the third stage, triumphed again in the Tour de France on Saturday. He showed himself best in an uphill sprint to the finish in Colombey-Les-Deux-Églises.

The Intermarché-Wanty rider was faster than Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck), last year’s green jersey winner, in a thrilling race to the finish. He was slightly behind when the sprint started, but gradually won with a lead of half a bike length.

Belgian champion Arnaud de Lie (Lotto Dstny) rode fast, but got stuck between the two riders and could not move.

“It’s unbelievable. Winning twice… I don’t know, what can I say? I just want to thank God for everything,” Girmay said just after the finish.

“I think I have to give this victory to my mother and my father. They believed in me. They give all the support to become a cyclist, to become a pro. I want to thank my family very much, I am so proud.”

The victory consolidated Girmay’s grip on the green jersey and was the second ever victory by a black African rider in Tour de France history.

Girmay is a lighter built rider than many other sprinters and agreed that the finish was perfect for him.

“That’s why I won,” he said with a smile. “I prefer these types of sprints because when it’s really flat, the other guys are bigger than me and heavier, so they can push more watts and go faster. But this finish is super nice for me with my weight.

Leader Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) stayed out of trouble, as he was close to the breakaway early on when several attempts were made to catch the early breakaway. He remained safe throughout, finishing 13th, three places behind his nearest rival Remco Evenepoel (Soudal Quick-Step).

Pogačar still holds a 33-second lead over him in the general classification, heading into Sunday’s gravel stage.

“I’m happy with how the team is,” he said. “Tomorrow is a stressful day, nervous, and we’ll have to be focused from zero to the finish. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.

“I did the recon, like every other gravel stage. A lot of gravel,” he said, laughing. “Tomorrow the wind or rain could be a factor, we’ll see how it goes.”

Long, lonely escape trails lead up the mountains, but are withdrawn

Norwegian rider Jonas Abrahamsen of the Uno-X Mobility team rides in a lone leading group during the 8th stage of the 111th edition of the Tour de France, 183.5 km between Semur-en-Auxois and Colombey-les-deux-Eglises, on July 6, 2024. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)
Uno-X Mobility rider Jonas Abrahamsen extended his lead in the mountain class with a strong solo breakaway. (Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP)

Stage 8 of the Tour de France was a bumpy 183.4km from Semur-en-Auxois to Colombey-Les-Deux-Églises. It featured five categorised climbs, but also many more hills that had no official designation, adding up to 2,300m of elevation gain. There was also a slight climb to the finish line.

A bunch sprint was predicted, but a breakaway also had a chance. A three-man breakaway took off at the flag, with KOM leader Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X Mobility) teaming up with EF Education-EasyPost duo Neilson Powless and Stefan Bissegger.

They opened up a lead of over two minutes, with another EF Education-EasyPost duo of Ben Healy and Alberto Bettiol and Steve Williams (Israel Premier Tech) trying in vain to make the crossing. Abrahamsen flew, dropping Powless and Bisseger with around 30km covered.

He collected more mountain points as his lead grew to over six minutes, but the sprinters’ teams gradually turned the screw and reduced his lead to half a minute with 17.2km to go. He was eventually caught just within 15km of the finish.

The sprinter teams kept going, with GC teams like Ineos Grenadiers also joining in. Sam Bennett’s Decathlon Ag2r La Mondiale team led them to the flyer, but he fell away in the final kilometre.

Girmay’s Intermarché-Wanty team took over and the Eritrean then put in an impressive sprint, overtaking Philipsen and taking another stunning victory.

His victory takes his points total to 216, well above last year’s winner Philipsen’s 128.

“I was really proud to win in the green jersey,” he said. “I think it hasn’t happened very often. For me the plan was to win a stage of the Tour de France first and then wear the jersey.

“Winning and getting more points is absolutely perfect.”

He described himself as “super happy” and said he had already achieved his goals.

“I think it’s almost over now,” he said. “If I go to Nice now, even without any win, I’ll just be so happy.”

But don’t expect him to sit back. He has the speed and momentum to grab more stages and the green sweater is becoming increasingly important and increasingly possible.

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