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Tour de France 2015: Lanterne Rouge – stage eight

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The story of a stage can be told as often from a glance at the bottom of the list of finishers as from the top.
The cluster of Cannondale-Garmin riders who rolled in nearly 11 minutes after stage winner Alexis Vuillermoz (Ag2r-La Mondiale) had raised his arms reveals the nature of the stage for the men in green and argyle.

The American squad had worked all day to tee up Dan Martin on the Mur de Bretagne, a finish likely to have made his heart jump the moment it was announced.
While Martin finished second, four of the seven riders who crossed the line 10.58 after Vuillermoz were from Cannondale-Garmin, who had ridden on the front for much of the stage to ensure that its decisive act would be played out on the Mur.
Debutante Dylan Van Baarle, road captain Sebastian Langeveld, and Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas, twice a Tour stage-winner, came in together with team-mate Nathan Haas, the last rider to finish on the previous day, owing to an upset stomach.
On stage eight, that dubious honour was claimed by Damien Gaudin (Ag2r), a late call up to replace Patrick Gretsch. An 85kg 1, with a career-best showing of fifth place at Paris-Roubaix, the Mur de Bretagne is likely to have been, for him, the stuff of nightmares.
Should Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) make it to Paris, he is almost certain to be the Lanterne Rouge of the 102nd Tour de France, after only eight stages. His deficit to race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) already stands at 1.11.02.
Upholding a painful tradition, a finish for Matthews would represent nothing more than almost three full weeks of bloody mindedness, following a race-altering pile-up on stage three.
The Australian has gradually shed his bandages, but looks likely to hold the Lanterne Rouge to Paris. Only at the Tour does last place bestow such honour.

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