Saturday July 7th, 2012

Stage 7Tomblaine / La Planche des Belles Filles

Start 12h15 GMT 2+

Sky's guys rise up the rankings into first!

Stage summary07.07.2012Stage 7- Tomblaine / La Planche des Belles Filles

The race to La Planche des Belles Filles was destined to show who the genuine contenders for the overall title are and what we saw the end of stage seven was a display of climbing prowess from a team of champions that decimated the hopes of almost all others in the peloton. Team Sky was as brutal as it was efficient on the final climb. With Rogers eliminating all but a handful of others, he handed over the pace setting to compatriot Richie Porte who set such a pace that only four men could remain on his wheel: his team leader Bradley Wiggins, another team-mate Chris Froome, the defending Tour champion Cadel Evans, Italy's big hope Vincenzo Nibali and Estonia wünderkind Rein Taaramae. And it was this quintet that reached the final kilometer with significant gains everyone, including other GC specialists. Evans knows he has to try and gain time on Wiggins whenever the opportunity presents and he attacked this elite selection with one kilometer to go but this only served to free Froome of domestique responsibilities and set him off on an uphill sprint to his first stage win in the Tour de France. Evans earned second place but it was Sky that won the day in several ways: the stage winner gets the polka-dot jersey, the team leader finished third and takes the yellow jersey and they also confirmed what we all expected... this is the dominant force of Le Tour 2012.

The progress report
The 199km seventh stage of the 2012 Tour de France began at 12.15pm with 182 riders still in the race. There were eight non-starters – Txurruka (EUS), Hesjedal (GRS), Hunter (GRS), Dupont (ALM), Freire (KAT), Wynants (RAB), Erviti (MOV) and Gutierrez (MOV). The stage featured three climbs – the cat-3 cote de Grosse Pierre (at 112km), the col du Mont de Fourche (at 150.5km) and the first category-one ascent of the 99th Tour, the slog up to La Planche des Belles Filles at the finish. There were double points on offer for the final climb.

Seven in the early escape
At the 15km mark, Gautier (EUC) started what would become the successful escape of stage seven. He was joined at the front by six other riders: Sanchez (RAB), Chris Sorensen (STB), Fofonov (AST), Martin Velits (OPQ), Albasini (OGE) and Riblon (ALM)... the latter of whom was the best placed on GC after six stages. By 37km, the Frenchman was the virtual leader when his group was 5'40” ahead of the bunch. The average speed for the first hour was 43.9km, and it was 40.7km/h for the second hour. The maximum gain on the escape was 5'55” at 76km.
BMC, Sky, Liquigas and Katusha all had riders at the head of the peloton and it was their efforts that started to pull back the advantage of the escapees. At the intermediate sprint Gautier rolled over the line for 20 points but the escapees didn't seem to care who was first. Orica-GreenEdge had five men lead out the sprint when the peloton arrived in Gerardmer but Sagan raced so easily into the lead (to take 8th place) that Goss sat up and coasted over the line for 9th. The bunch was behind by 4'50” at the intermediate sprint. BMC was the team that was most prominent at the front of the chase. The points of the first climb were won by Sorensen (2pts) and Sanchez (1pt); Knees (SKY) led the bunch over the top 4'50” behind the escapees. The average speed for the third hour was 36.8km/h.

Setting up for the final climb
Sorensen added another two points to his climbing tally by leading Sanchez over the top of the second climb. The peloton reached the top of the Mont de Fourche 3'45” behind. With 30km to go, the peloton was led by BMC, Garmin and Sky riders. The peloton was at 2'45” with 30km to go; 2'20” with 25km to go; 1'45” with 20km to go; 1'15” with 15km to go... Fofonov was the only rider to attack the lead group – and he did so with 15km to go but to little effect. Gautier was the first to be dropped but it didn't take long for the rest of the escapees to be swallowed up. The last to be caught by the bunch that was led by a determined Sky team was Sorensen.

Sky get the yellow jersey for the first time
Boasson Hagen made sure that the Sky team arrived at the base of the final climb within striking distance of the escapees but then he peeled off and let Rogers take control. The Sky team led all the way up to the finish: once Rogers was done, Porte took over and the effort of this Australian pair knocked virtually every rider out of contention for the stage with except for an elite few. Cancellara lost contact with the lead group with about 5km to climb and, as expected, his time in the yellow jersey has come to an end. Van den Broeck had a mechanical problem just before the final climb and although he powered back up to the lead group he spent so much energy in the chase that he had no chance of following the other GC specialists once it got really steep. One by one team leaders fell by the wayside because of the pace set by the Sky guys. Schleck popped with about 3km to climb, then Rolland, Menchov, Brajkovic and Roche... and, going into the final kilometer only five remained: Froome, Wiggins, Evans, Nibali and Taaramae. Evans attacked inside the final kilometer but this prompted Froome to not only chase him down but pass him and gain two seconds by the top. It is the Kenyan-raised Brit's first stage win in the Tour de France, and the second for Sky in 2012.
Wiggins was third and he will take the yellow jersey with a lead of 10” on Evans.

Stage 7 Tomblaine / Tomblaine

All about the stage key moments

Jersey wearers after the stage 20

Classifications after the stage 20


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