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Ireland's Dan Martin finishes second in Tour de France's 8th stage

Meanwhile, Chris Froome stunned his Tour de France rivals by attacking on a fast descent to take the honours.

Updated at 18.05

IRELAND’S DAN MARTIN has finished second following an impressive performance at the Tour de France today.

The result also means Martin is now fourth overall at the event.

Meanwhile, Chris Froome stunned his Tour de France rivals by attacking on a fast descent to take the honours.

Renowned for his blistering attacks on steep climbs, the Briton stunned his Tour rivals by going clear on a speedy descent to the finish of the 184km eighth stage from Pau to Bagneres de Luchon in the Pyrenees.

He caught everyone by surprise, commentators and fans included, with a curious technique where he slipped off his saddle and onto the bike’s central bar to gain aerodynamic benefits, yet still managing to pedal furiously.

No-one in a select group of 13 challengers reacted quickly enough and Froome opened up a 13 second gap by the finish.

Martin won the sprint for second from Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain.

Froome now leads by 16sec overall from young Briton Adam Yates and Rodriguez, while previous yellow jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet finished a long way back.

“It wasn’t really planned. I thought I’d give it a try in the downhill as the few tries on the climb didn’t work out,” said Sky leader Froome.

They (his rivals) were sticking to us so I decided to give it a go in the descent. It was cool.

“Bike racing is just fun, but maybe I spent a little bit too much energy — tomorrow is a hard stage but I take every second I can.”

Froome’s main rival Nairo Quintana finished the stage in 13th place on the same time as Martin and is now sixth overall at 23-seconds.

Team manager Dave Brailsford praised Froome’s ingenuity and said this proved Sky aren’t the boring team they’re often made out to be.

“Sometimes we’re too predictable so today we decided to change things a bit,” he said.

We mixed the tactics and did something unexpected. Well done Chris!

“It’s true that on the descent, as an Englishman, I had my heart in my mouth, but it worked.

“Great credit to Chris, he’s a fighter, he takes chances, he’s a real racer.”

It was a bad day for Spanish two-time former winner Alberto Contador, who’s still struggling with injuries he suffered in a crash on the opening stage.

He finished 1:41 behind Froome and is now more than 3min behind in the overall standings.

- Breakaway impossible -

With an incredible 51km covered in the first hour of racing it was impossible for a breakaway to form.

But once the climb of the monstrous Tourmalet began — the first of four categorised climbs — Frenchman Thibaut Pinot and Rafal Majka of Poland finally got away before German time-trialler Tony Martin breached up to the two climbers.

Froome’s Sky were setting the pace at the front of the peloton and Van Avermaet quickly found himself in a group of stragglers going rapidly backwards and seeing the yellow jersey slipping off his shoulders.

The Tourmalet took its toll with 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali also dropped and Dane Michael Morkov, who’d been struggling ever since crashing on the opening stage, being forced to abandon, the first rider to quit the Tour this year at an unprecedentedly late stage.

The leading trio were brought back 43km from the end, on the penultimate climb as Quintana’s Movistar and Sky took turns setting a fierce tempo at the front of the peloton.

When the Sky-led peloton reached the final climb, there were only 30 riders left in the lead group.

Finally, with 17km left, less than 2km from the climb’s summit, Froome put in a dig, followed by Martin as the peloton broke up with few riders able to hang on.

Frenchman Romain Bardet and Quintana both accelerated but neither showed any great commitment to attack.

A group of just 14 riders went over the top together with 16km to ride and Froome immediately darted clear on the descent.

The chasers seemed to look to each other for direction and the Briton was away to win a fifth stage in eight for his nation.

Stephen Cummings won Friday’s stage while Mark Cavendish has a hat-trick of sprint stage victories.

Additional reporting by Paul Fennessy

- © AFP, 2016

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