For the second time this year, Sylvain Chavanel has won a stage and taken the yellow jersey because of his willingness to attack. The Frenchman dared to try his luck on a day when all the major contenders were happy to gauge the form of one another on the first ‘mountains’ of the 2010 Tour. The climbs of the Jura are tough but harder days are yet to come and while the world champion is poised to strike, finishing the seventh stage ranked second overall (at 1’25”), Cadel Evans is happy enough to be in the position he is – as he wants the yellow jersey in Paris, not Station des Rousses at the start of the second week.
The French Quickstep coup was repeated again with Jerome Pineau successfully defending his lead in the mountains classification with another bold move. He started the initial escape in the opening kilometer and only returned to the peloton after collecting first place points at five of the six climbs.
The Progress Report
The 165.5km seventh stage, from Tournus to Station des Rousses, began at 1.07pm. There were 187 riders at the sign on with Oroz (EUS) the only non-starter. The race featured six climbs: the cote de Aubepin (cat-3 at 51.5km), cote de Granges (cat-4 at 69km), cote de Arinthod (cat-3 at 84.5km), Barrage de Vouglans (cat-2 at 104km), col de la Croix de la Serra (cat-2 at 134.5km) and the final hill, the cote de Lamoura (161.5km) – the final ascent has double points.
Knees Becomes Virtual Leader
In the first kilometer Pineau (QST) attacked and was joined by Knees (MRM), Dumoulin (COF), Hondo (LAM) and one of yesterday’s attackers Perez Moreno (EUS). Quickstep policed the escape, Bbox missed the move and thus led the peloton for much of the first 25km but then O’Grady (SAX) slotted into his usual position at the front of the peloton. After 28km, the peloton was 8’00” behind the escapees. Knees was the virtual leader of the Tour. The average speed for the opening hour was the fastest yet in the 2010 Tour: 45.8km/h. At 39km, the peloton was behind by 8’45” – this was the maximum gain.
After 57km, two Bbox riders raced to the front of the bunch and dramatically increased the pace, quickly reducing the advantage of the escapees. The average speed for the second hour was 34.5km/h.
Cancellara In Trouble On Fifth Climb
Five Bbox riders led the peloton to the base of the Barrage de Vouglans, 5’05” behind the escapees. The bunch crest the fourth summit at 4’00”. The first to drop from the lead group were Dumoulin and Perez Moreno. With 10km to climb on the Col de la Croix de la Serra, Voeckler and Gautier (BTL) attacked. They were chased down by Lloyd (OLO), Perget (GCE) and Valls Ferri (FOT) and with 8km to climb, this group of five was 45” behind Hondo, Knees and Pineau. The yellow jersey lost contact with the peloton several times going up the fifth ascent but he returned before the top but he would crack on the final climb and surrender his yellow jersey.
Pineau and Hondo led over the top then came a group of six – Chavanel, Voeckler, Perget, Cunego and Lloyd at 50”. They were followed by Nocentini (ALM), Moinard (COF) and Martinez (EUS) at 2’00”. The peloton was at 2’15”.
Chavanel Races Back Into Yellow With Another Stage Win
Pineau became the lone stage leader with 17km to go. At the foot of the final climb Chavanel caught his team-mate but raced ahead almost immediately. No one would see him again until after the finish. Valls Ferri (FOT) was the revelation of the stage, racing past every other rider and riding in second place for the final 12km. He would finish second 57” behind the French stage winner. Voeckler’s group changed composition several times on the final climb, losing Lloyd and gaining Moreno (both OLO), Garate, Perget and Fedrigo would compose the chase group and they would ride together to the finish.
None of the favorites for the title attacked each other, unless you count last year’s 10th place finisher Le Mevel (FDJ) who tried a brief surge only to be caught by the group of Contador, Evans, Schleck, Armstrong et al before rolling into the line as part of the peloton that was 1’47” behind the stage winner and new yellow jersey, Sylvain Chavanel.
Cancellara finished 84th, 14’12” behind Chavanel. His time as race leader is over. It’s a new phase of the 2010 and France is in command for another day at least.
The Quickstep Frenchmen who led the climbing classification have increased their advantage with a clever display of bravado on the roads of the Jura…
“The work of a team has been fully rewarded. It was a beautiful sight, and is also the victory of friendship, of complicity. When Sylvain caught up with me, I already knew he did it because he felt strong. And when he was next to me, I saw in his eyes that no one would be able to take him back.
“I am happy for this team, because many people said we can do nothing without Tom [Boonen]. Of course he’s a great champion, but we also proved that there are other riders. At the Giro d’Italia, many doubted us, and we won two stages. At this Tour de France, they still doubted us and we have won two stages, and taken the yellow jersey twice.
“I like this polka-dot shirt and I have good legs, so we do not set limits. And if ever Sylvain must take a chance, he will do so without any problem and with our support because it will only do so if he feels strong."
For the second time this year, Quickstep’s two Frenchmen used cunning tactics to pull off a sensational coup. Jérôme Pineau added points to his tally in the climbing classification and Sylvain Chavanel won the stage and took the yellow jersey…
“I think next year I will no longer compete for the month of May, considering the form I’ve currently got at the Tour. I had legs of fire, and I knew I was on climbs that suited me very well – a gradient of four per cent, hills more than mountains.
“At first I was afraid to attack, because I did not want to take any riders up to Jérôme [Pineau]. And when I did eventually catch him, he told me: ‘Go ahead!’ He was exhausted.
“We are in a spiral on this incredible Tour 2010. We started with the whole team, and it goes perfectly. What we did in the stage to Spa was extremely rare. But to do it twice… oh, it’s wonderful. Now we will try to win a third!
“I began to think of the yellow jersey on the last climb, and I told myself that after having lost, it was quite a coup to take it back again. 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.”
Sitting in second overall, Cadel Evans is happy with how things are going. He’s in the driving seat of the true general classification favorites and is clearly pleased with his performances to date in Le Tour 2010 even if he had to employ different muscles on the climbs in the Jura…
"I’m satisfied to be sitting in second place. To have taken the yellow jersey today would put a lot of pressure on the guys and it’s a long way yet to go. Tomorrow is going to be much more of a shake up. We saw today all of the GC guys looking at each other and, particularly in the final, it was strange – really hot conditions to start with, pretty high tempo Bbox, and then in the final it was tough.
“With the headwind, to put your team on the front was a real commitment. George and the others were keen to ride for a bit but I was like, ‘Nah, let’s stay calm for a bit and save ourselves for tomorrow and what’s yet to come’.
“Tomorrow is the first day with really big climbs and another mountain top finish. It’ll be another day where the main contenders look at each other, test themselves and we’ll see if someone really wants to lay it on the line and blow it apart – for someone like Alberto or Lance, it’s probably in their interests to try and do that. For me it’s a case of see how they go and how I cope.
“It’s funny, we’ve been on the flat for so long when we got to the climbs it takes a completely different muscle recruitment pattern and it takes a bit of getting used to but everyone is in the same boat.”
The runner-up of Le Tour 2009 finished 20th in stage seven, as part of a group of general classification favorites including last year’s winner Alberto Contador, the world champion Cadel Evans, and the seven-time Tour champion Lance Armstrong. Andy Schleck is now fourth overall, but he’s back in the white jersey that he’s already won twice. Here’s how he saw the stage…
“There were no battles between the favorites today but that’s how we expected it to be. It was a chance to survey how everyone is going on the climbs. Lance looked really good, so did Alberto and I hope they say the same about me. That’s why nobody really attacked. It was not a day that is going to decide the winner of the Tour.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was. It was a difficult stage with the heat and everything – that’s something I didn’t expect for today.
“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. I’ll be there to follow him and we’ll see if I can stay with him… and I’ll also take note of what Lance is doing. I think things will be a bit more clear after stage eight.
“I didn’t really understand the tactics of the Astana guys. They dropped half of the peloton and that didn’t really need to happen today. In the end, nobody wanted to pull anymore and why should I? I had only one team-mate and I didn’t want him to work because we still had the yellow jersey even if he was 10 minutes back.
“I’m happy to have the white jersey again. I’ve got the nicest podium girls so of course I’m pleased.
“I’m aiming for yellow but this is now the beginning and I hope I can go higher on the podium. I feel pretty good and now we take it from here and fight to the end.”
The top 10 at Station des Rousses is: 1. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA) QST - 165.5km in 4h22’52" 2. Rafael Valls Ferri (ESP) FOT - at 57" 3. Juan Manuel Garate (ESP) RAB - at 1’27" 4. Thomas Voeckler (FRA) BTL - at 1’40" 5. Mathieu Perget (FRA) GCE - at 1’40" 6. Daniel Moreno (ESP) OLO - at 1’40" 7. Pierrick Fedrigo (FRA) BTL - at 1’47" 8. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) GRM - at 1’47" 9. Ruben Plaza (ESP) GCE at - 1’47" 10. Eros Capecchi (ESP) FOT - at 1’47"
Never say die: that’s the approach of Mr Chavanel. He may have lost the yellow jersey after his crash in stage three but he’s a fighter who is going to be back in yellow again today. He has won the stage with an average speed of 37.8km/h, beating Rafael Valls Ferri by 58".
Chavanel is going to win his second stage this year. He is in the final kilometer of stage seven. It’s his third stage win in the Tour de France (after one in stage 19 of 2008) and stage two this year in Spa.
Christophe Le Mevel attacked the peloton with 2km to climb. He has just caught and passed Cunego.
The points for the final climb have been won by: 1. Chavanel (QST) 20pts 2. Valls Ferri (FOT) 18pts - at 50" 3. Garate (RAB) 16pts 4. Voeckler (BTL) 14pts 5. Moreno (OLO) 12pts 6. Perget (GCE) 10pts