LIMOGES, France (AP) — With Mark Cavendish out of the picture, former world champion Mads Pedersen claimed a second career stage win at the Tour de France on Saturday with a big burst of power to win a mass sprint.
Defending champion Jonas Vingegaard kept the yellow jersey after the 201-kilometer (125-mile) eighth stage from Libourne to Limoges in central France.
Pedersen proved the strongest in the long final stretch of road leading to the finish line and the Danish rider held off a late challenge from Jasper Philipsen, who had won all three previous sprints this year.
“My boys gave me a perfect leadout,” said Pedersen, who rides for the Lidl-Trek team. “The final stretch was very painful. I still had the legs to finish it off.”
Wout Van Aert completed the stage podium in third.
The stage was marred by several crashes, including the one that ruled Cavendish out of the race. The ace sprinter hit the ground with 64 kilometers (40 miles) left while riding at the back of the peloton.
The British rider had finished second in Friday’s stage when Philipsen denied the rider known as the “Manx Missile” an outright record 35th Tour stage win. Cavendish equaled Eddy Merckx’s record of 34 wins on the 2021 Tour, 13 years after his first success. Cavendish, who has never won the Tour, unlike five-time champion Merckx, will retire at the end of the season.
Vingegaard spent the day well protected by his Jumbo-Visma teammates and kept his 25-second lead over two-time champion Tadej Pogacar in the general classification. Jai Hindley remained in third place, 1 minute, 34 seconds off the pace.
The pulsating duel between Pogacar and Vingegaard is expected to resume during Sunday’s ninth stage, which finishes with a spectacular climb to Puy-de-Dome, a famed volcanic crater in the Massif Central region of south-central France which last hosted a stage 35 years ago.
The mountain is part of the Tour lore and all cycling fans cherish the memorable duel to the summit between French rivals Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor back in 1964. Anquetil went on that year to become the first five-time Tour winner.
The first rest day follows in Clermont-Ferrand on July 10.
With many riders interested in making the most of the flat profile of the first half of Stage 8 to break away, there was a flurry of attacks immediately after race director Christian Prudhomme waved the flag signaling the start.
But the peloton rode at full speed and thwarted the moves.
Veteran Belgian all-rounder Tim Declercq, a powerful rider usually excelling in chasing breakaways for the Soudal Quick-Step team, finally managed to get away from the bunch after 20 kilometers (12.5 miles), accompanied by Frenchmen Anthony Delaplace and Anthony Turgis.
The sprinters’ teams were relieved to see the break limited to just three men, and finally slowed down to let them go.
The trio had a maximum lead of 4 minutes, 40 seconds and were ultimately reeled in during the finale after Vingegaard’s teammates stepped up the pace.