BRITAIN's Bradley Wiggins defended the Tour de France yellow jersey on the race's second climbing day after seeing his lead come under attack for the first time yesterday.

Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of FDJ won the eighth stage, his maiden win on what is his debut, after 157,5km of racing over several short but steep climbs in the Swiss Jura.

Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) finished second, the Australian leading home a select group after a failed attempt to shake off Wiggins on the way to the last summit and during the 16km descent to the finish.

Among the finishers with Evans was Italian rival Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), Frank Schleck of Luxembourg (RadioShack), Belgian Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto) and Russian Denis Menchov (Katusha).

After taking the lead thanks to a third place finish on Saturday, Wiggins retained his 10 second advantage on second-placed Evans with Nibali still third at 16 and Menchov moving up to fourth at 54 after Estonian Rein Taaramae failed to keep the pace.

But the Englishman got a taste of what may be in store in the climbing stages ahead. With many pre-race hopefuls now several minutes in arrears, the onus is on them to attack if they are to claw back time.

And on the way to the summit of the Col de la Croix, the seventh and last climb, Van den Broeck and Lotto team-mate Jelle Vanendert took on the challenge.

Only Froome was able to stick with Wiggins in the select group, but the Briton showed his mettle by sticking close on the way to the summit and when both Nibali then Evans tried to shake him on the descent.

Wiggins said he had not been surprised by their tactics. "I'm not surprised at anything in this t our. You can't underestimate or try to predict anything," he said. "It was enjoyable, just like being in a junior race with everybody attacking."

A day after being isolated on the steep climb to La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges, Evans said riders such as Van den Broeck and Spaniard Alejandro Valverde have everything to gain.

"A lot of the leaders are isolated, especially guys like Van den Broeck and Valverde who have already lost time and they don't have anything to lose, so they're much more willing to put it out there," he said.

"Opportunities don't come often in this line of work. So when they come you've got to grab them by the neck and go with it."

Stage glory, meanwhile, went to the youngest rider in the race.

Pinot, 22, had to pressure team boss Marc Madiot into letting him compete, and despite having instructions to stay in the peloton he seized the day after team-mate Jeremy Roy prepared the platform for a late attack after getting into an earlier breakaway.

Pinot eventually attacked Swede Fredrik Kessiakoff of Astana on the seventh and final climb of the day, the 3,7km-long Col de la Croix.

He came over the summit with a small lead and rode hard on the 16km descent to claim the first French win of the 99th edition, sending Madiot into raptures.

"It's a dream come true," said Pinot, who is from the nearby Franche-Comte region.

Sapa-AFP