Tour de France: Bradley Wiggins hangs on to yellow jersey for Team Sky

FRANCE’S Thibaut Pinot won stage eight of the Tour de France in Porrentruy as Briton Bradley Wiggins retained the race leader’s yellow jersey under attack from defending champion Cadel Evans.

The 157.5-kilometre route from Belfort saw the peloton make a brief sojourn to the finish in Switzerland and Pinot (FDJ-Bigmat) won by 26 seconds from Evans (BMC Racing), with Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Nissan) third and Wiggins (Team Sky) fourth.

Australian Evans attempted to gain vital seconds in the closing moments of the stage, but Wiggins had enough strength to follow every revolution and maintain his 10secs lead.

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Wiggins became the fifth Briton to don the maillot jaune on stage seven, won by Team Sky colleague Chris Froome, and will enter today’s 41.5km time-trial to Besancon seeking to gain further time in his bid for victory in Paris on 22 July.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) stayed third, 16secs adrift, after placing fifth on the stage.

With the overall contenders conserving energy for the time-trial ahead of Tuesday’s rest day, a breakaway was anticipated to succeed on a route featuring seven categorised climbs.

It took some time for a break to be established as Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Rui Costa (Movistar) were in the initial 11-man escape, which also included Millar (Garmin-Sharp) and Team Sky were determined not to let them get away as they were threats to Wiggins’ lead.

It was a frantic opening which saw attack and counter-attack, with Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) to the fore.

Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), who began the day in 12th, 2mins 2secs behind, became the latest rider to abandon, crashing out with a suspected fractured collarbone. The Spaniard will likely miss the defence of his Olympic title on 28 July.

A group of back-markers began to form on the day’s second categorised climb, the category three Cote du Passage de la Douleur, with world champion Mark Cavendish in it, accompanied by Team Sky colleague Bernhard Eisel.

The break was finally established on the category two Cote de Saignelegier climb, when Team Sky reduced the pace.

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Jeremy Roy (FDJ-Bigmat) took the initiative and a lead of two-and-a-half minutes. A large group of riders tried to bridge the gap and Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) succeeded before forging on alone on the Cote de Saulcy, cresting the summit of the category two climb 60.5km from the finish alone. Roy fell back into a group of 14 riders bidding to hunt the Swede down.

Team Sky continued to occupy the front of the peloton, with BMC Racing tucked in behind them and Liquigas-Cannondale also prominent.

Kessiakoff reached the summit of the penultimate climb, the category two Cote de la Caquerelle, with Frenchmen Pinot and Gallopin one minute behind and the peloton three minutes adrift.

The summit of the final climb came 16km from the finish and Pinot made his move on the Col de la Croix, a brutal category one climb featuring some of the steepest slopes in the race.

Evans and Wiggins, with support from Froome, marked each other as, up ahead, Pinot closed in on Kessiakoff before rounding his rival and taking a 10-second lead at the summit.

Jurgen van den Broeck led a nine-man group containing Wiggins, Evans and Nibali over the summit, 1:35 behind.