x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Costa conquers first mountain stage

Portuguese rider overcomes Philippe Gilbert challenge in final climb to clnch eighth stage of Tour de France.

SUPER-BESSE, France // The Portuguese rider Rui Alberto Costa won the eighth stage of the Tour de France after withstanding a late attack from Philippe Gilbert in the final climb on Saturday.

Costa waved his hands in delight and then punched the air as he clinched the first Tour stage win of his career.

"I knew I could get in the breakaway today," he said. "The team put me in the best position. I was lucky that I managed to hold on until the end. I'm very happy with this win."

The race entered the mountains for the first time in the 189-kilometre trek from Aigurande to Super-Besse, featuring a sharp, category 2 climb up Col de la Croix and a final climb of 1.5km.

Thor Hushovd kept hold of the race leader's yellow jersey. The Norwegian has been wearing it since his Garmin-Cervelo team won last Sunday's time trial. Hushovd, who is not a renowned climber, was certain he was going to lose the yellow jersey before the stage. "Maybe I was a bit pessimistic," he said. "I didn't think I could do it."

Alexandre Vinokourov closed to within 15 seconds of Costa in the last kilometre, but the Kazakh rider ran out of steam as he had no teammates to help him. Gilbert was fresher after sitting in with the main pack for much of the day's climbs. He overtook Vinokourov after launching an attack with about 400 metres left.

None of the main Tour contenders lost any significant time. The defending champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, Luxembourg's Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans of Australia - both two-time runners-up - tested each other out with mini-attacks.