Saturday, July 10, 2010

TDF 2010: Stage 7: Mountains Welcome Home Victory

The first stage in the mountains created new challenges for riders, bringing a French champion to the forefront, and separating the general classification contenders from the rest of the peloton.

After an attack on the Col de la Croix de la Sierra, Sylvain Chavanel of QuickStep brought out the cheers from French fans as he approached the top of the last col, Station des Rousses. From there he powered his way to the finish, riding back into the Yellow Jersey, and his second stage win this year.

It was a magnificent win which he accomplished all on this own, and a long way from the three flats he sustained on the cobblestones in stage 3. That bad luck had cost him the Yellow Jersey he earned one day earlier in a full day breakaway.

Inspiring new rider Rafael Valls of Footon Servetto was second as he chased Chavanel to the finish, and Juan Manuel Garate of Rabo Bank was third.

Lance Armstrong was in a third chase group along with kingpins Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, all of them clocking in at 1 minute and 47 seconds behind Chavanel.  Armstrong climbed easily, moving up into 14th position and Contador is now 6th. But one cannot discount Cadel Evans of BMC in the race to the podium in Paris, who is now in second place, and is a powerful competitor.

Evans said the day was hot, and harder than expected, and even though Team BBox had pushed the pace in the first half, no one wanted to work too much at the front because of the difficulty of the hills to come in the next 3 days. "Tomorrow is going to be much more of a shake up," he predicted.

The first climbs of the day through Cormoz, Saint-Amour, Cote de l'Aubepin, Cote des Granges, Cote d'Arinthod, and Cote du barrage de Vouglans, kept most of the peloton intact as they chased down an early getaway led by sprinter Jerome Pineau of QuickStep.

Pineau was already in the sprinter's polka dot jersey yesterday when he announced his intention to stay in it, and he kept his word. At 17 km to the finish, and still before the final climb, an hors categorie climb (beyond classification), he was at the front.

Behind him was his own teammate, Sylvain Chavanel, who attacked at the Col de la Croix de la Sierra with Kolobnev (KAT) and Garate (RAB). Chavanel soon dropped the others and took off on his own.

Chavanel only needed 40 seconds over the the Yellow Jersey holder to take over the lead as he powered his way up the last col to the Station des Rousses. He was a full minute ahead of the peloton, and would switch places with Pineau, who had already won the most aggressive rider of the day jersey.

At 5 km to go, Chavanel continued up the col with a chase group from the peloton a minute and a half behind him.
As they made the final climb to station des Rousses, Rafael Valls of Spain attacked and followed Chavanel: he was 50 seconds behind the Frenchman.

In the peloton, the final col left only the strongest riders in the front, Contador flanked by three other Astana riders, Armstrong, alone, with all other RadioShack climbers shredded behind him, and other top riders in the group including Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso, Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins, Denis Menchov, and Robert Gesink. They soon absorbed Pineau as he slipped down the mountain.

Gautier, Voeckler, Perget and Lloyd had formed a counter attack between the second to last col de la Croix de la Sierra and the final mountain pass, Station des Rousses.  This allowed Voeckler to come in 4th at the finish.

Cancellara struggled to stay with the peloton over the last two mountain passes, and soon became a part of the fourth chase group that was more than 7 minutes behind the leader over the last climb to Station des Rousses. 

“Cancellara could still be in yellow at the end of the day," directeur sportif of the BMC team, John Lelangue said before the start of the stage. "It depends on how the race is unfolds. If there is a breakaway, there could be a big fight for the jersey from an opportunist."By the end of the race Cancellara would have lost about 13 minutes, and is now in 58th position.

But even the stage contenders didn't realize how hard the stage would be. Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) said Contador and Armstrong looked strong, and gave him a good idea of who would be in contention for the final win in Paris. "I looked around me tried to find some weaknesses in my rivals on the climbs but I didn’t see any. Now I have a good position in the general classification and I’m pretty sure we’ll see Alberto attacking tomorrow," he said.

As the GC contenders picked up the pace at the last col, promising rider Geraint Thomas cracked, dashing his hopes for a Yellow Jersey at least for the moment. Mark Renshaw (THR) was also dropped by the peloton.

General Classification Standing at End of Stage 7 

1. CHAVANEL Sylvain 131 QUICK STEP 33h 01' 23"
2. EVANS Cadel 121 BMC RACING TEAM 33h 02' 48" + 01' 25"
3. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 33h 02' 55" + 01' 32"
4. SCHLECK Andy 11 TEAM SAXO BANK 33h 03' 18" + 01' 55"
5. VINOKOUROV Alexandre 9 ASTANA 33h 03' 40" + 02' 17"
6. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 33h 03' 49" + 02' 26"
7. VAN DEN BROECK Jurgen 101 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 33h 03' 51" + 02' 28"
8. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 33h 03' 51" + 02' 28"
9. VAN SUMMEREN Johan 58 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 33h 03' 56" + 02' 33"
10. MENCHOV Denis 191 RABOBANK 33h 03' 58" + 02' 35"
11. WIGGINS Bradley 31 SKY PRO CYCLING 33h 03' 58" + 02' 35"
12. KREUZIGER Roman 44 LIQUIGAS-DOIMO 33h 04' 33" + 03' 10"
13. SANCHEZ Luis-Leon 161 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 33h 04' 34" + 03' 11"
14. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 33h 04' 39" + 03' 16"
15. LĂ–VKVIST Thomas 37 SKY PRO CYCLING 33h 04' 43" + 03' 20"
16. VALLS FERRI Rafael 219 FOOTON-SERVETTO 33h 05' 02" + 03' 39"
17. LEIPHEIMER Levi 25 TEAM RADIOSHACK 33h 05' 02" + 03' 39"
18. GARATE Juan Manuel 194 RABOBANK 33h 05' 07" + 03' 44"

 Stage Standings at the end of Stage 7

1. CHAVANEL Sylvain 131 QUICK STEP 4h 22' 52"
2. VALLS FERRI Rafael 219 FOOTON-SERVETTO 4h 23' 49" + 00' 57"
3. GARATE Juan Manuel 194 RABOBANK 4h 24' 19" + 01' 27"
4. VOECKLER Thomas 151 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 24' 32" + 01' 40"
5. PERGET Mathieu 167 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 24' 32" + 01' 40"
6. MORENO FERNANDEZ Daniel 107 OMEGA PHARMA - LOTTO 4h 24' 32" + 01' 40"
7. FEDRIGO Pierrick 154 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
8. HESJEDAL Ryder 54 GARMIN - TRANSITIONS 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
9. PLAZA MOLINA Ruben 168 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
10. CAPECCHI Eros 211 FOOTON-SERVETTO 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
11. ROCHE Nicolas 81 AG2R LA MONDIALE 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
12. GERDEMANN Linus 141 TEAM MILRAM 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
13. CONTADOR Alberto 1 ASTANA 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
14. EVANS Cadel 121 BMC RACING TEAM 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
15. GAUTIER Cyril 155 BBOX BOUYGUES TELECOM 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"
16. ARMSTRONG Lance 21 TEAM RADIOSHACK 4h 24' 39" + 01' 47"

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