STATION DES ROUSSES (France) • Lilian Calmejane fought off a bout of cramp to claim a dramatic solo win in the eighth stage of the Tour de France yesterday, on the eve of a punishing day in the Jura mountains.
The 24-year-old, in only his second year as a professional, dropped his breakaway companions in the last climb of the day. And despite cramping up in the closing stages, the Direct Energie rider held off Dutchman Robert Gesink for a second grand Tour stage win.
Another Frenchman, of Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Guillaume Martin, took third place.
Britain's Chris Froome had a minor scare when he went off the road in a descent, but the Team Sky rider kept his cool in sweltering heat to retain the overall leader's yellow jersey 12sec ahead of Geraint Thomas.
Calmejane, who almost came to a halt 5km from the line, due to cramp in his right thigh, said: "It's huge. It was everything I was dreaming of. When I had cramp in the finale, I decided to drop a gear so I could pedal softer."
"I suffered like never before," added Calmejane, who snatched the polka-dot jersey as mountains leader.
Froome has warned that today's ninth stage will be "very decisive" for the general classification.
The peloton goes up the Col de la Biche (10.5km at an average gradient of nine per cent), the Col du Grand Colombier (8.5km at 9.9 per cent) and the Mont du Chat (8.7km at 10.3 per cent) before a dangerous descent into Chambery.
"It is going be an important block these next two days but Sunday's stage will be very decisive with a lot of climbing and we will see a lot of damage," said Froome, who won the Tour in 2013, 2015 as well as last year.
The Briton and all of his rivals got a feel of the stage during last month's Criterium du Dauphine when the race went up and down the Mont du Chat.
"If anything it was more of getting a feel of the climb to the Mont du Chat and the descent," he said.
"I'm certainly grateful that I have seen the climb.
"I know what I'm up against. But it is going to be much tougher than on the Dauphine because of the climbs that come before."
On Wednesday, he possibly underestimated Italian Fabio Aru as he let the Astana rider pedal away up La Planche des Belles Filles, prevailing in the first summit finish.
But Froome now considers himself as having been warned.
"He's very close in the GC (general classification), I will need to pay attention to him," he said.
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 9: Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, 5.45pm