Stage eight saw some truly stunning alpine scenery, open mountainside with outcrops of rock, very few settlements and just one or two scattered homesteads. The riders spent the day toiling upwards and then descending at breakneck speed over and over again on switchback roads with hairpin bends and precipitous drops to the valley far below. After Cormet de Roselin and the hamlet of Le Chateland there was the final major climb to the top of Montée de Tignes, partly through road tunnels, passing Lac du Chevril (pictured)
with its huge dam, the waters of which have mostly engulfed the original settlement of Tignes and on to the finish at the higher new ski centre town of Tignes.
Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) was one of a group that broke away but eventually attacked and took the lead with 20km to go. From that point on his win was almost inevitable. One of the steep descents, coming down from the Cormet de Roselin, was the undoing of Australian Michael Rogers (T-Mobile), who was among the favourites. He rode into the roadside guard rail and was (28km) later forced to retire in great pain and was later diagnosed as having a dislocated shoulder. The other rider in the incident, David Arroyo (Euskatel) somersaulted the barrier to land in the bushes below, but having remounted managed to continue the race, along with Antonio Colom (Astana) staying with Rasmussen until his winning breakaway, finally crossing the line in 17th place. Another serious incident on the Cormet de Roselin descent was that of Stuart O’Grady (CSC) who crashed badly, sustaining a collapsed lung, broken ribs, cracked vertibrae and a dislocated shoulder. Mention must also go to Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and Andreas Klöden (Astana) both carrying injuries from Stage 5, Vinokourov with stitched and heavily bandaged knees and Kloden with a fractured coccyx. Following the race Patrik Sinkewitz (T-Mobile) was involved in an incident where his bike hit and seriously injured a spectator. Sinkewitz broke his nose, and is unlikely to continue. Sadly Robbie McEwan (Predictor Lotto), three times winner of the green jersey and a contender this year, was one of the riders who was eliminated having run out of time, his ailments from the Stage 1 crash slowing him down too much. Today saw the first British retirement in Mark Cavendish (T-Mobile), on his first Tour de France, who had been in some discomfort since crashing in the early stages.
STAGE WINNER – Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
2nd Iban Mayo (Sauner Duval) – 3rd Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Épargne)
YELLOW (individual) – Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
POLKA DOT (climber) – Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
GREEN (points) – Tom Boonen (Quickstep Innergetic)
WHITE (under 25) – Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile)
COMBATIVE – Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank)
LEADING TEAM – Rabobank