PREVIEW | Tour de France 2023 stage 8 - Van Aert and van der Poel favourites for hilly sprint

Preview. The race has temporarily left the mountains however stage 8 of the Tour de France will be an interesting day, with long distances and a hilly finale making it suited to the classics riders.

Now on stage 8 of the Tour the race moves to the northeast. It's a long day on the bike, one of the very few days that go over 200 kilometers. Another transition day with a pan-flat finale, however it will be a slight different finale.

Estimated start and finish times for Tour de France stage 8: 12:30-17:10CET

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2023 stage 8 - Van Aert and van der Poel favourites for hilly sprint
Stage 8: Libourne - Limoges, 200.9 kilometers

It will all come down to that final hour of racing. A tough challenge, tension will be high and certainly the GC teams will swarm the front in an attempt to not be caught out, of both splits and possible crashes. The pace will go up, and in the final 50 kilometers there will be plenty small hilltops. It's a very rolling terrain, this is a day for the sprinters, but not a pure sprinter day. Some will be burnt throughout this hour of racing, some teams may push it too purposefully.

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There are even two categorized climbs with 16 and 9.5 kilometers to go, they are 1.3Km at 5.3% and 1.2Km at 5.4%. You can tell, they are big-ring climbs, but they will be felt, and with descents inbetween all these hilltops the peloton will find itself in a constant change of speed.

The riders ultimately head into Limoges. It's not a very technical finale, but the challenge here will be the gradients. The riders turn into the finishing straight which is 700 meters long at 4.3%, not a pure sprint and it will spice things up, surely with many to try and surprise.

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2023 stage 8 - Van Aert and van der Poel favourites for hilly sprint
Stage 8 Finale
PREVIEW | Tour de France 2023 stage 8 - Van Aert and van der Poel favourites for hilly sprint

The Weather

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2023 stage 8 - Van Aert and van der Poel favourites for hilly sprint
Map Tour de France 2023 stage 8

A small southwestern breeze throughout a hot transition day. This will come as a positive for those eyeing a breakaway as they will essentially have a tailwind all throughout the afternoon, however it's not likely enough to give them an advantage. Most of the finale itself will have the wind from the back, but that will now be the case in the finishing straight where it will be covered, but a cross-headwind if felt.

The Favourites

Wout van Aert & Cristophe Laporte - Jumbo-Visma are certain to eye this stage, it would be bad not to. This is most likely the best suited day for Wout van Aert, simultaneously I'd say the same for Christophe Laporte. As the Belgian has not yet gotten his win he will surely aim for it here, Jumbo will already have to be in front to protect Jonas Vingegaard, a finale like this is where the team's depth of rouleurs will come in handy. He would prefer a flat sprint after the hills but as the day is not too hard he will need the gradients for the purer sprinters to struggle.

Jasper Philipsen & Mathieu van der Poel - Alpecin have cards to play here, two of them. Mathieu van der Poel is very explosive and has here a good opportunity to win here. It's a well suited finale, the question is does van der Poel get the freedom and priority of the team? Jasper Philipsen is in my opinion relatively safe to win green and already has three wins, certainly he'd be willing to help. However the team would rather not sacrifice any and have both available to a sprint, but that'll be hard. I think both have the same chances of winning, leadout won't be as crucial here so on paper none have to leadout the other if the legs are good on both sides.

Mads Pedersen - Mads Pedersen has been eyeing green, this is his kind of finale with some gradients. Trek have the leadout, Pedersen has the form, ideally he'll be able to kick it off here but simultaneously he'll have to overcome a lot of strong competition.

Caleb Ewan - Caleb Ewan has so far looked very good in this Tour, with great legs in the sprints however above all strong positioning which used to be his big problem. Someone who has over time grown to struggle in the mountains, but on his best day he can win hilly stages - hell he even flew up the Poggio a few times, and the gradients will be similar here. If he has good position, this is a finale where he could in theory beat Philipsen, but the Belgian won't be the only other contender.

I will argue that on paper, this would be a day suited to a breakaway, or late attack. I don't believe the chances much because there are so many sprinters and quality leadout that to hang on with a lead will be a monumental task. However simultaneously we have world-class puncheurs and rouleurs who may try something near the finale. Stefan Küng, Alberto Bettiol, Kasper Asgreen, Rémi Cavagna, Matej Mohoric, Krists Neilands, Rasmus Tiller and Victor Campenaerts will be riders to watch.

In fact this should be a luxurious finale. The quality of sprinters who can climb very well here is outstanding. Think Biniam Girmay, Bryan Coquard, Corbin Strong, Alex Aranburu, Fred Wright... But that's not all, Danny van Poppel, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Luka Mezgec and Luca Mozzato... You can understand why I think a breakaway or late attack stands little chances despite the good conditions. All these riders surely will have ideas and at least a rider or two to help with positioning, or chasing too. It's an insanely strong field, where even at their very best level some of these riders will be able to fight only for a Top10.

The fight doesn't end there however. The GC riders will have to be towards the front to avoid losing time in splits. Tadej Pogacar will also be an outsider for this finale, his explosivity is notable and he can certainly fight for bonifications. In the puncheur field too, the likes of Julian Alaphilippe and Tom Pidcock will also have a golden chance to take a premium victory. One thing is certain, whoever wins this stage will be a terrific rider, and it will likely be a finale that will stand the test of time.

Prediction Tour de France 2023 stage 8:

*** Wout van Aert, Jasper Philipsen
** Mathieu van der Poel, Mads Pedersen, Caleb Ewan, Bryan Coquard
* Christophe Laporte, Biniam Girmay, Julian Alaphilippe, Alex Aranburu, Tom Pidcock, Magnus Cort Nielsen, Corbin Strong, Tadej Pogacar

Pick: Jasper Philipsen

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