On a day of mixed feelings for the home nation, rookie Nans Peters won the eighth stage of the Tour de France following a long breakaway in the Pyrenees, while fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot saw his hopes of winning the race vanish.
Peters was part of a group of 13 riders who broke away Saturday in the early stages of the 141-kilometer (87.5-mile) stage featuring three punishing ascents to the town of Loudenvielle.
Peters and Ilnur Zakarin moved away from their breakaway companions in the grueling Port de Bales climb. The Frenchman then used his downhill abilities to drop his Russian rival in the descent and never looked back.
“It's crazy for my first Tour," said Peters, who rides for French outfit AG2R-La Mondiale. “I realized he was really bad in the downhill, I played on my strengths."
Yellow jersey holder Adam Yates and other Tour contenders, including defending champion Egan Bernal and favorite Primoz Roglic, crossed the finish line 6 minutes, 40 seconds later.
Yates came under a series of attacks in the final climb, the Col de Peyresourde, but hung on to the overall lead after Roglic did not seem interested in taking the coveted shirt this early in the race. Roglic responded to every attack in the last 4 kilometers and gave the impression he could have gone solo.
Overall, Yates has a three-second lead over Roglic, with Frenchman Guillaume Martin completing the podium six seconds further back.
The stage destroyed Pinot, who cracked in the Port de Bales.
Riding at the back with other contenders, Pinot, who crashed last week at the end of Stage 1 and did not fully recover, was dropped in the day's second ascent. He was accompanied by three teammates who gently patted him on the shoulders and tried to spur him on. Touching his lower back, Pinot could not react and his Tour hopes are effectively over — a year after he was forced to withdraw with a left leg injury. He reached the finish more than 25 minutes after Peters.
“I could not pedal, that's the way it is," said Pinot, a third-place finisher back in 2014. “I'm not going to leave the Tour, it was complicated. I want to apologize to my teammates and all my supporters. It might be a turning point in my career. I've been through too many failures."
Another big loser was Tom Dumoulin, the Jumbo-Visma co-leader with Roglic, who was dropped on Peyresourde and lost more than two minutes on the favorites.
Featuring two big climbs, another tough Pyrenean stage waits the peloton Sunday, taking riders from Pau to Laruns.
The Tour, which was postponed from its usual July slot due to the coronavirus, ends in Paris on Sept. 20