Gerardmer La Mauselaine, France (SportsNetwork.com) - Blel Kadri became the first Frenchman to win a stage in the 2014 edition of the Tour de France, capturing Stage 8 on a Saturday that saw former champion Alberto Contador's attempt to make a move on overall leader Vincenzo Nibali in the mountains.
Kadri finished the 161 kilometers from Tomblaine to Gerardmer La Mauselaine in a time of 3 hours, 49 minutes and 28 seconds. It was his first career Tour de France stage win.
"It's something crazy to win a stage at the Tour de France," noted Kadri.
Nibali kept pace with Contador, the two-time Tour winner known for his strong climbing, on the last ascent to retain the overall lead in cycling's most prestigious event.
Contador actually finished second on Saturday, 2:17 behind the stage winner. The Spaniard, however, was unable to shake the yellow jersey from Nibali in the final kilometer, as the Italian champion crossed just three seconds later.
"Alberto Contador took the race in hand," said Nibali. "The last climb suited him more than me. It was very difficult and explosive. I made a little mistake in choosing my gear. It was a bit too big."
Nibali has worn the coveted leader's yellow jersey since Stage 2 and increased his overall lead over teammate Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark. It was just two seconds when the day started, but Fuglsang was more than four minutes off the stage winner's pace on Saturday and is now 1:44 behind Nibali.
Australia's Richie Porte is another 14 seconds behind in third place after a fourth-place result Saturday. Contador moved up to sixth overall and is 2:34 behind Nibali.
Saturday marked the first of three days in the Vosges mountains near the border of Germany and Nibali was able to gain time on most of his closest rivals, with the exception of Contador.
Kadri and fellow Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel guided a lead pack that moved nearly 11 minutes ahead of the peloton that featured Nibali and Contador. However, the last climb left only Kadri and Chavanel fighting for the lead as the peloton began closing in.
Chavanel fell back in the final few kilometers, leaving Kadri alone to celebrate in the rain at the finish.
"When Chavanel accelerated, I immediately went behind him," stated Kadri. "I was ready for that. I've realized that he wasn't that strong, so I rode away solo because I wanted to avoid the return of Simon Yates as he's a much better climber than me. I also knew that, had I stayed with Chavanel, he would have dropped me off in the downhill as this is his strong point."
Meanwhile, the battle for second in the final kilometer featured Contador and Nibali, with Porte not too far behind. Nibali, though, stayed on the Spaniard's rear wheel until the final few meters.
"I wanted to see how Nibali was doing and I was surprised he kept so close," said Contador. "Nibali is a great rider, like all the great riders ahead of me. I must keep hoping and try to take time with each stage."
Mountain racing continues Sunday with Stage 9, a 170-kilometer trek to Mulhouse that features six climbs -- including a Category 1 ascent and a pair of Category 2s.
Monday's 10th stage on Bastille Day includes seven climbs, four of which are of the Category 1 variety, before the first rest day on Tuesday.