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Van Aert wins Swiss stage, Pogacar extends Tour de France lead

Belgian rider Wout van Aert sprinted to victory in stage eight of the Tour de France at Lausanne on Saturday with defending champion Tadej Pogacar holding the leader’s yellow jersey.

Van Aert, of the Jumbo team, won on a late incline ahead of Australia’s pre-stage favourite Michael Matthews with Slovenian Pogacar finishing in third position.

This was a second stage win for van Aert, who also came second three times during the opening stages in Denmark, and extends his lead in the sprint points standings.

Pogacar also took a four-second bonus for his third place and extends his overall lead on Jonas Vingegaard at the top of the rankings.

The peloton left Dole in the Jura region under a cloud Saturday morning after Frenchman Geoffrey Bouchard from the AG2R team and Norwegian Vegard Stake Laengen from Pogacar’s UAE team tested positive for Covid and were withdrawn.

But cowbell ringing roadside fans cheered the pack along the way to the Swiss border where they caught a glimpse of what is to come with the Alpine mountains rearing into view on the horizon.

An early fall caught Pogacar and third placed Geraint Thomas, while French climber Thibaut Pinot not only fell twice but also took a smack on the nose when a roadside food bag distributor got things badly wrong.

Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen of the EF team will ride stage nine in the polka dot jersey again while Tom Pidcock of Ineos will wear the white under-26’s jersey albeit as second placed man behind Pogacar.

Sunday’s ninth stage runs from Aigle to Chatel le Portes du Soleil, an Alpine resort on the French-Swiss border, with over 40km of climbing on the 192km itinerary.

It reaches a high point of 1778m at the Col de la Croix summit while a 15km six percent gradient challenge up the Pas de Morgins awaits any tired legs before the Tour re-enters France for the final 10km.

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