Pinot triggers huge French hopes on the Tour

Thomas De Gendt of Belgium and Team Lotto Soudal celebrates his stage win

After five hours of exhaustion on the saddle across seven short but punishing climbs, Alaphilippe claimed back the yellow jersey with one of his trademarks attacks, while Pinot asserted himself as a strong contender for the final victory by gaining time on Thomas and co.

"That's a very hard stage and we have all been riding full gas all the way already".

The long day's simmering tension erupted with 15km to go when Canadian Michael Woods (EF Education First) lost control on a tight right hand corner and took out a batch of Team Ineos riders hot on his wheel.

Pinot trails Alaphilippe by 53 seconds on third.

Belgium's De Gendt rode in front most of the day and finished the 200-kilometre (124.3 miles) trek from Macon to Saint-Etienne six seconds ahead of Frenchmen Thibaut Pinot and Alaphilippe.

Alaphilippe will be doubly delighted to regain the maillot jaune after losing it to Giulio Ciccone two days ago.

Thomas remains fifth overall and 1:12 behind Alaphilippe, conceding just 20 seconds to the Frenchman.

"I was ready for Julian's attack since last night and all day I was waiting for it because I had great legs", said Pinot, who like Milan-San Remo champion Alaphilippe holds a "Monument" classic title as he won the Giro Di Lombardia last October. "It's frustrating - I was just sat there thinking "come on".

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"Woods crashed and took out Gianni ... and I just got tangled in Gianni's bike".

"It's annoying and frustrating but to come back like I did [is pleasing]."

Cycling - Tour de France - The 200-km Stage 8 from Macon to Saint-Etienne - July 13, 2019 - Deceuninck-Quick Step rider Julian Alaphilippe of France celebrates on the podium, before receiving the overall leader's yellow jersey.

"Thibaut Pinot and Julian Alaphillipe have a good kick and punch - they are the guys to watch and beat", he said. "We're doing our job on the flat, we're there in the mountains and today we're exactly where we want to be", said Pinot, who changed his race schedule to peak for the Tour.

"There is pressure obviously but the biggest pressure is the one I put on myself", said Pinot, who abandoned the race in 2016 and 2017 and did not take part previous year after failing to fully recover from a bout of pneumonia sustained near the end of the Giro d'Italia.

Pinot, who has a love-hate relationship with the Tour having won a stage as the youngest rider in the race in 2012 but also experienced his most humiliating disappointments here, is happy to be taking part this year.

Tomorrow it's another bumpy ride, with a mere three categorised climbs on the 171 kilometres between St Etienne and Brioude.

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