July 10, 2010 6 Comments
Stage 7: Tournus > Station des Rousses (165.5 km)
On the day the Tour de France rolled over its first second-category mountains at the gateway to the Alps, the combination of six increasingly difficult climbs and sweltering 34 degree temperatures proved too hot to handle for most of the peloton. As yesterday’s top two men in the overall standings, Fabian Cancellara and Geraint Thomas, melted away into the background, the heads of state of the race – the yellow jersey contenders – are now starting to take their places at the top of the general classification. But the glory of stage victory today belonged to Sylvain Chavanel, who claimed his second win of this year’s Tour and in doing so reclaimed the yellow jersey he had lost in unfortunate circumstances on stage three.
As expected, the overnight leader in the King of the Mountains competition Jérôme Pineau shot off the front of the peloton in search of points to defend his position, forming an escape group of five which at one point held an advantage of eight minutes over the main field.
The chase was led by Bbox Bouygues Telecom, looking to set up their man Thomas Voeckler for the stage win. In setting such a fierce pace at the front, they gradually shed riders out of the back of the peloton on the fourth and fifth climbs of the day, including yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara.
Bbox’s tempo provided the springboard for Chavanel to leap forward on the final climb of the day, the Côte de Lamoura, overtaking teammate Pineau, the last survivor of the break and soloing on to a well-deserved victory. And while his win into Spa on stage two (on the same roads on which he fractured his skull in April during Liège-Bastogne-Liège) owed much to the good fortune of Cancellara ordering the peloton to neutralise their pursuit of him, today’s win was all down to Chavanel himself.
As Chavanel rode to victory, behind him the chasing group was rapidly whittled down to the heads of state and other top climbers. Cancellara, who had recently been accused of riding with a concealed motor in his bike, was slipping rapidly backwards, any hope of retaining the yellow jersey long gone. If he had a motor today, it was set in reverse; he would finish over 14 minutes behind Chavanel. He admitted:
I was [flat out]. It was too much for me, I couldn’t do it. I’ve had some nice days in the yellow jersey, and tomorrow I’ll go back to my normal one. Things will be quieter, calmer, less stress.
Geraint Thomas too, would relinquish both his second overall position and the white jersey on the Lamoura, losing over five minutes as he ran out of steam in his first experience of riding in such elite company in the mountains. As he said later:
My legs went with ten kilometres to go. I never expected to be in the position I was in – it was good to have a go but I just didn’t quite have it today.
Meanwhile, the trusty old diesel engine of Cadel Evans kept on going, finishing comfortably with the elite group containing all the major contenders and quietly moving up to second overall. But he also recognised that he will need to be on his toes tomorrow, given the likelihood of one of the other contenders attacking:
I think it’ll be another day where the main GC contenders are looking at themselves, testing themselves. We’ll see if someone really wants to lay it on the line and try and blow it apart. Someone like Alberto [Contador] or Lance [Armstrong], it’s probably in their best interest to do that. For me, I’ll see how they go and how I go.
Britain’s Bradley Wiggins also finished comfortably alongside the other GC contenders, and proclaimed himself happy with his performance after moving up to 11th overall:
It was harder than a lot of people expected. There was a bit of a stalemate going on and it turned out to be quite a hard stage but it’s good to get one out of the way.
Today’s shake-out means race favourites Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck are now sixth and fourth respectively, while Lance Armstrong moved up to 14th. The time gaps between the contenders remain unchanged.
Pineau consolidated his position at the top of the King of the Mountains standings, while the green jersey competition remained essentially unchanged, with Thor Hushovd, Mark Cavendish and most of the other sprinters finishing in a raggedy group over 22 minutes after Chavanel.
But the undoubted star of today was the new yellow jersey, who has already provided one of the most heart-warming stories of this or any recent Tour.
I was thinking of only going for the stage win, but the yellow jersey was a bonus. Tomorrow I will do everything to defend it, but I know that the battle will mainly concern Contador, Schleck and Evans. In the midst of it, I’ll always give everything, but if I lose, it does not matter. Right now I’m on my little cloud, I’m floating and I don’t know how else to describe it. But I see that I have great support on the road and everywhere. It warms my heart.
But now the warm-up – and the time for sentiment – is over. The serious mountains of the Tour de France begin tomorrow. Which means that tomorrow one or more of the big guns will finally have to show their hand. It should be explosive stuff.
Stage 7 result:
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 4:22:52
2. Rafael Valls Ferri (Footon-Servetto) +0:57
3. Juan Manuel Gárate (Rabobank) +1:27
4. Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) +1:40
5. Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) +1:40
General classification (yellow jersey):
1. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 33:01:23
2. Cadel Evans (BMC) +1:25
3. Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) +1:32
4. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) +1:55
5. Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) +2:17
6. Alberto Contador (Astana) +2:26
7. Jurgen van den Broeck (Omega Pharma-Lotto) +2:28
8. Nicolas Roche (AG2R) +2:28
9. Johan van Summeren (Garmin-Transitions) +2:33
10. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) +2:35
11. Bradley Wiggins (Sky) +2:35
12. Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas-Doimo) +3:10
13. Luis-Léon Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) +3:11
14. Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) +3:16
17. Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) +3:39
27. Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Doimo) +4:06
31. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +4:37
58. Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) +13:11
Points classification (green jersey):
1. Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) 118 pts
2. Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) 114
3. Robbie McEwen (Katusha) 105
4. José Joaquín Rojas (Caisse d’Epargne) 92
5. Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) 85
Climbers’ classification (polka dot jersey):
1. Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) 44 pts
2. Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) 36
3. Mathieu Perget (Caisse d’Epargne) 28
4. Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues Telecom) 21
5. Rubén Pérez Moreno (Euskaltel-Euskadi) 20
Stage 8 preview:
Start & finish: Station des Rousses > Morzine-Avoriaz
Distance & type: 189 km, high mountains
Prediction: If any day in the Alps is going to create significant time gaps between the yellow jersey contenders, it is this one. Featuring this year’s first two category one climbs, including the climb to the finish at Avoriaz, it has the added encouragement of leading into the first rest day.
The final ascent of Morzine kicks up near the top, which may encourage Alberto Contador or Andy Schleck to test the other GC contenders with one of their trademark accelerations in the final 2-3 kilometres. Equally, this might be an opportunity for someone like Lance Armstrong or Ivan Basso to attack in an attempt to regain time lost over the stage three cobbles. Watch out if Liquigas or RadioShack mass near the front of the yellow jersey group in the early part of the climb. Either way, today’s stage winner is likely to be one of the GC men.
In similar circumstances at Verbier last year, Contador attacked decisively and gained a small advantage, but more importantly laid down a marker to then-teammate Armstrong. It was by no means decisive, but it was significant.
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