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94th Tour de France - Stage 7 Live coverage Part 1
 
By Staff
Date: 7/14/2007
94th Tour de France - Stage 7 Live coverage Part 1
 

94th Tour de France - Stage 7 Live 1
Welcome to the first day of the climbers festival as the tour turns into the alps for two days for the mountain goats take center stage in the continuing drama of the 2007 tour...

Stage 7: Bourg-en-Bresse Le Grand-Bornand 197.5 km
Stage Map, stage profile
Climbs on the menu today:
Km 35.5 - Côte de Corlier - 6.4 km 5.3 % - 3 Catégorie
Km 122.5 - Côte de Cruseilles - 7.1 km 4.4 % - 3 Catégorie
Km 134.0 - Côte Peguin - 4.3 km 4.1 % - 4 Catégorie
Km 183.0 - Col de la Colombière - 16.0 km 6.8 % - 1 Catégorie

Welcome to our live coverage of the tour de France. This is the first mountain (alp) stage from Bourg-en-Bresse to Le Grand Bornand. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Ruben Lobato (Saunier Duval didn't start. The bunch  kept together until the first sprint of the day. Green man Tom Boonen won the sprint and extended his lead with two more points with Zabel 2nd and Bennati 3rd.

After the intermediate sprint the following riders attacked; Garcia-Acosta (Caisse D'Epargne), Burghardt (T-Mobile), VandeVelde (CSC), Goubert (AG2R), Landaluze (Euskaltel), Bossoni (Lampre), Halgand (Credit Agricole), Hincapie (Discovery Channel), Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom), Auge and Schierlinckx (Cofidis), Willems (Liquigas), Gilbert and Vaugrenard (FDJ), Garate (Quick Step) and Cardenas (Barloworld). But the peloton didn't feature the early escape and they where reeled in again a few kilometers later.

Cofidis led the pace on the first climb as Chavanel wanted to take the KOM Points. Due to the high pace riders like Degano, Cavendish, Boonen and McEwen dropped off the back of the bunch. As you can see the sprinters are having a hard time out there. Rasmussen took the max. KOM points on the first climb of the day ahead of Verdugo, Chavanel and Paulinho. The peloton broke into several chasing groups due to the high pace as a result of that Cancellara dropped off the back as well.

After the climb it was a attack after attack with riders trying to form a break. Finally, after the bunch slowed a bit nine riders of the right mix for the peloton to approve, went on the attack and escaped. The 9 riders are; Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ), Paolo Savoldelli (Astana), Egoi Martinez (Discovery), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Inigo Landaluze (Euskaltel), Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile), Dmitriy Fofonov (Crédit Agricole), David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval) and Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom).

The peloton consolidated as Cancellara joined the main bunch after a long chase. With 144 km to go the gap of the leaders is about 20 sec. on Tankink, Flecha and José Ivan Gutierrez and 2.40 on the "walking" bunch. With 140 km to go the three chasers caught the 9 in front, so we have a leading group of twelve. They have a gap of 5.10 on the bunch. The twelve in front are; Vaugrenard, Savoldelli, Egoi Martinez, Ruben Perez, Landaluze, Gerdemann, Fofonov, De la Fuente, Lefevre, Flecha, Tankink and José Ivan Gutierrez.

Martin Elmiger (Ag2r), Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom) and Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) ride in the chase as well at 41 sec. of the leaders. With 127 km to go the 3 chasers caught the 12 in front, so we have now a clear situation. 15 leaders with 5.10 on the bunch. The gap has grown  to 7.35 as the peloton settled into the chase.

120 km to go as the gap of the 15 is up to 8.13. The best ranked rider in front is Benoit Vaugrenard. Benoit Vaugrenard began today ranked 12th, 52" behind Cancellara. The next-best of the escape group is Jose Ivan Gutierrez who was 13th overall, at 53". Predictor-Lotto and CSC are working at the front of the peloton setting the pace.

The temperatures in France are around 30 degrees Celsius and will only add to the misery for the riders as they climb over the four climbs on the menu today. The stage is well suited for Il Falco. Not that stiff of a descent after the Colombiere he could easily escape the others to the finish for a win. .

Linus Gerdemann (T-Mobile) takes the second intermediate sprint. Ruben Perez was 2nd and Bram Tankink 3rd.

1412 CET -110 km to go, the gap is 8.22. It's an easy part of the stage now as the next climb will come in about 25 km.

As all the other riders of the bunch, Alejandro Valverde is waiting for the first stage in the Alps commenting after the finish yesterday,  “We have now to ride three mountain stages in a row and that will be a first very important test for all the bunch. We will learn a lot of things about the race and about our rivals. As for me, I feel well, with good sensations and above all hungry for the mountains. The first week has been a quiet one even if we were unlucky because we lost Xabier Zandio who was a very important rider for the team. Now we are eight riders left to do the job nine had to do, but the team is very strong and really motivated, so that we will take the start feeling confident. I like the course of that first stage in the Alps but we have to expect tomorrow to see if my legs are ok.”

As for him, Oscar Pereiro predicts,  “the stage of today a very quiet one, almost too quiet, but tomorrow will be another day, with the first contact with the high mountains and things will change. It is a fact that the race will not be decided tomorrow, but we will have a clearer idea about who can and who cannot win the Tour, because it is probable that somebody will already have a bad day tomorrow. The first mountains stage is always a complicated one, but we will start being confident.”

1422 CET - 100 km to go as the gap is down to 8.00 with CSC leading the peloton. Stuey "Red Thunder" O'Grady (CSC) comes to the front to help set the pace on the current descent. CSC and Predictor-Lotto doing most of the donkey work in the peloton right now as they both missed the break. Just as Liquigas, Agritubel, Barloworld have,14 teams out of 15 riders are involved in the break. Egoi Martinez had the great privilege of getting his picture taken with me at the 2004 Tour when he was with Euskaltel. That guy has some serious eyebrows, in a good way.

Robbie McEwen is wearing his sleeveless jersey and riding back through the cars up to the peloton. He looks sweaty and tired, but hanging in there. His teammates are setting the pace now in the pack.

96 km left, 7' 27" the lead. A cake walk for the rest of the day, looks like. The top of that climb is 75 km before the finish. That's in 20 km from now. Next up is the Cote de Cruseilles (Cat 3) followed quickly by the Cat 4 Cote Peguin. No word on whether someone will be dressed as Burgess Merideth's old Batman character going "Waaahhnn, waaaahhnn, waaahhnnn! at the top of the climb. The first climb as the break  formed, was awesome to see. but now it is formed the stage is a bit of a sleeper until the Colombiere.

The devil, of course, will be waiting on the Colombiere to fork the riders. Every other crazy bike fan in Europe will be on that climb as well. Cancellara is at the CSC team car. The Yellow Jersey is chatting with his director. He'll probably get some water to take back to his mates.Wow, Freire didn't start today due to saddle sores. Ouchy. Really got my sympathies on that one mate. The gap continues to go down, now at 7 minutes. Simple equation: saddle sores + high alps = see ya later fellas.

1440 CET - 90 km to Le Grand-Bornand. The last one who won in Le Grand-Bornand was Lance Armstrong. It looked like that Klöden was about to win that stage but Lance passed him in the final 5 meters of the stage. Others in the break that day were Basso, Ullrich and Landis. Cancellara chats with Sastre and passes on the advice of the team manager. Sastre is of course a favorite to lead the charge up the final climb.

That day when Armstrong won in 2004 was much harder than this stage. That day the riders did 4 or 5 climbs that were Cat 1 or HC. It was 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and there had been a long break by Virenque, Moreau, Aldag, and Simoni. Guys were seriously hurting that day. It hurt just watching. Zabel almost ran me over as he cut the corner a bit tight climbing up the penultimate climb. I had to lean way back to avoid getting elbowed.

1444 CET -  The gap is down to 6.30 as Predictor-Lotto continues to lead the chase. The gap is down to 6.30 as Predictor-Lotto is still leading the chase; and it's going fast now, down to 5.55. Lotto will be looking to set up Cadel Evans with Chris Horner as his final support on the climbs. Check out Lyne Lamoureux's pre tour interview with Chris here.

2004, you were there that day right Locutus... Oh yeah. You could smell the sweat of those guys as they went by. They all had pain written all over their faces, but they were still going twice as fast as I could go up those climbs. The sprinters climb faster than I can. Totally. I thought the grupetto would be slow, but it was just slow-er. Those guys were still moving pretty good.

They are on the next climb now, it's 7 km to the top climbing up the Cote de Cruseilles (Cat 3). I'm watching a Predictor-Viagra-Chevy commercial; not really, but that would be funny.

80 km to go, as the gap is shrinks to 5.28, Euskaltel's Perez sets the pace in the break. They are all still together in that break. No attacks yet to try to trim the numbers. They need all the bodies they can get for the next few dozen kilometers. Guys are rotating through, taking turns still setting the pace. It's not going that fast in the bunch as Napolitano is still hanging in there with his broad ass and legs like dynamite.

As I said that Napolitano is off the back, Yeah, that's not exactly the ideal climbing physique. Robbie McEwen drops off the back as well. First to the finish line and first to go when the road tips up.

In other news: Reigning world champion Kristin Armstrong (Boise, Idaho/Team Lipton) successfully defended her national title in the elite women's time trial on Friday. Armstrong recorded a time of 30 minutes, 47.08 seconds over the 24-kilometer course to better second-place finisher Amber Neben (Flexpoint) by 50 seconds. Christine Thorburn (Webcor Builders) placed third, 1:18 off the pace of the world champion. "Defending this jersey was really important to me," Armstrong explained. "It was my second priority."  Kristin will be defending the rainbow jersey she won the UCI Road World Championships in Salzburg last September - a chance she'll get two months from now in Stuttgart, Germany.

Vitacost.com

1506 CET - The peloton is still pretty big, despite some of the flatlanders starting to slip back. The gap is growing at the moment, back up to 6' 08". De la Fuente takes the max KOM points on the Cote de Cruseilles 75 km to go, De La Fuente did the same thing last year (went on the attack early in the mountains) and finished pretty high up in the King of the Mountains race.

One thing is sure on the French national holiday Bastille Day (Quatorze Julliet), Chavanel keeps his KOM jersey. So the French have at least one rider on the podium. McEwen and Napolitano have regained the peloton.

1515 CET - 70 km to go, The gap of the 15 is up to 6.44, Cancellara is visible near the front of the peloton on the climb (the peloton is still climbing). Now they go over the top, led by O'Grady. Except for the 15 attackers, the peloton looks to still be largely intact. It will likely stay that way now until the final climb.

The riders are now on the cat 4 climb of the Côte Peguin - 4.3 km to the summit. Hmmm... Savoldelli (Astana) is in this break. You know, if he makes it to the top of the Colombiere in front of the big GC men, he will likely win the stage... he can bomb the descent. This stage is tailor-made for him. The last climb will give the favorites and mountain goats a first opportunity to test the legs and determination of their rivals and our first look at any weaknesses.

3 km to the top of the Peguin, Cancellara now puts the Yellow Jersey at the front of the peloton to lead the chase. Purists will whine about the Yellow Jersey working as a domestique, but they need to get over it. This is pure class by Cancellara. Perez and Savoldelli drive the break as they near the top of the Peguin. I'll try to refrain from making any "march of the peguin" jokes.

The break must be nearing the top of the Peguin, as De La Fuente attacks again. De la Fuente takes again the max KOM points as he crosses the top of the peguin as first. De La Fuente shows his "happy feet" as he wins the climb of the Peguin.

1529 CET - 60 km to go, and the 15 riders in the break have 6.28 as they go over the summit. The peloton is still on the Peguin. Donkey-man O'Grady and Yellow Jersey Cancellara are still leading the pack for CSC.

Only 50 km left, but in many ways the race has yet to start. The climb of the Colombiere looms ahead, promising to provide the first serious GC sort-out of the Tour. Some men will be eliminated from contention today. Predictor-Lotto and CSC still leading the chase.

Part 2 of our live coverage continues here.

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