STATION DES ROUSSES, France (AP) — Speeding away on a small mountain road more suited to goats than riders, Lilian Calmejane won Stage 8 to the Rousses ski station in the Jura Massif on Saturday, for his first victory in his first Tour de France.
Calmejane, riding for French team Direct Energie, fought cramp after breaking away on the final climb and hung on, tongue lolling, for victory in only the second visit by the Tour to the Rousses. It was the second win at this Tour for a French rider, after Arnaud Demare’s on Stage 4.
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Tour leader Chris Froome finished in a group further back, retaining the yellow jersey ahead of a second, far harder day of climbing, again in the Jura mountains, on Sunday.
Froome’s day wasn’t without incident: On a downhill, right-hand bend after the second of three notable climbs on the stage from Dole, the three-time Tour champion went straight into the roadside grass instead of cornering, but managed to stay on his bike and quickly recover.
Calmejane held off Dutch rider Robert Gesink, hot on his heels, on the final climb and rolling finish. Cramping from his effort, Calmejane had to slow and rise off his saddle to stretch his legs in the final section and then gritted his teeth to the line.
Gesink, of the Netherlands’ Lotto-Jumbo team, rode in 37 seconds after Calmejane. French rider Guillaume Martin placed third on the stage, another 13 seconds back.
“Winning alone like that is incredible,” said Calmejane, who also won a stage at his first Grand Tour, the Spanish Vuelta, last year. “It’s everything I dreamed of.”
Sunday’s Stage 9 stays in the mountains with nearly 5,000 meters of climbing, including three beyond-category climbs, the toughest on the Tour. The general classification is sure to be shaken.
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