Matthews misses podium in Tour de France

Michal Kwiatkowski and Gianni Moscon give Geraint Thomas a push

The prospect of a home-grown rider winning the Tour de France for the first time in more than three decades started to take shape on Saturday when Thibaut Pinot ended the first block as the best of the overall contenders.

"From 70km to go, I just kept riding full gas until last climb", De Gendt, whose only previous Tour de France stage win came in 2016, said.

The French duo went at full tilt on the descent into Saint Etienne and held off a trimmed-down peloton at the finish, cheered on by huge crowds hoping to celebrate the first French victor of the Tour since 1985.

He gained 28 seconds, including eight bonus seconds, over his GC rivals to move up to third overall, 53 seconds behind compatriot Alaphilippe who reclaimed the yellow jersey after finishing third behind Pinot and stage victor Thomas De Gendt.

Alaphilippe went over the mountain in second position behind De Gendt, claiming five precious bonus seconds to turn his deficit to Ciccone into a 23-second lead over the Italian, with Pinot in third place, 53 seconds off the pace.

After placing 30th on the stage, Bennett is 17 seconds behind Pinot, two seconds ahead of Thomas, who crashed about 15 kilometres from the end but escaped unscathed and crossed the finish line 10th, 20 seconds behind Alaphilippe and Pinot.

Pinot, however, is in the form of his life and can compete with the best above 2,000 metres - an asset giving him hope he can succeed cycling great Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour in 1985.

Here, Pinot and Alaphilippe too leapt from the peloton, the Groupama-FDJ rider looking for time on his GC rivals and Alaphilippe looking for seven seconds to take back the maillot jaune.

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French duo Thibaut Pinot, right, and Julian Alaphilippe cross the finish line after a fine day for the locals. "It was a key moment in the race".

"We nearly crashed in a few corners because we were taking some risks".

Moscon's bike was snapped in half in the crash.

Pinot is now likely to head into the first high mountain stage with huge hopes of donning the yellow jersey in Bagneres de Bigorre next Thursday.

"I was trying to catch my bike because one policeman took my bike away so it was very hard to get back on the bike".

"It's annoying, but at the same time, to come back like I did shows I had good legs".

"If I hadn't crashed I could have followed [Pinot and Alaplilippe] and it's a totally different story then".

Sunday's hilly ninth stage is a potentially treacherous ride from St Etienne to Brioude over 170.5 kilometres.

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