Hushovd's Tour lead under threat in eighth stage

Thor Hushovd's yellow jersey is in jeopardy in Saturday's 189-km eighth stage of the Tour de France to...

The pack rides in the 213 km and third stage of the 2010 Tour de France. Picture: AFP

Thor Hushovd's yellow jersey is in jeopardy in Saturday's 189-km eighth stage of the Tour de France to Super-Besse when the peloton encounter the first mountains in this edition.

The finale in the Massif Central ski resort is by no means the most gruelling ascent this year but it will be merciless to poor climbers, especially as it comes shortly after a category two hill; the Croix St Robert.

"Obviously, it is too hard for me to keep the yellow jersey and we are not going to defend it. It's up to the other teams to control the race. I'm just going to enjoy my sixth day in yellow," said Hushovd, who has held the Tour lead since the second stage in Les Essarts.

The main threat to the Norwegian is Australia's Cadel Evans, second overall and just one second behind.

Evans has showed splendid form in the past week, winning the fourth stage at Mur de Bretagne.

The 2009 world champion has said he has no intention of seizing the yellow jersey this early in the race, but he will be forced to if he means to take more time off his leading rivals in his dress rehearsal before the Pyrenees a week later.

"Super-Besse is a climb that suits him well as does the next stage in St Flour. And obviously, if we're in a position to take the jersey we're not going to stop before the line not to get it," said Evans's BMC team director John Lelangue.

In the first significant climb of the Tour in Mur de Bretagne, Evans and three-times Tour champion Alberto Contador emerged as possibly the fittest men at this stage and the Spaniard will also be closely watched.

The same applies to the other leading contenders like Luxembourg's Andy Schleck, the Tour runner-up in the last two seasons.

"Super Besse is not very hard so don't expect major gaps. To me, the 50 strongest riders in this Tour will finish close together," said Schleck's Saxo Bank team director Kim Andersen.