Stage 7 – Friday, July 11: Brioude – Aurillac, 159km
On a day that looked on paper to be a one of recovery for the gc boys, the Tour delivered almost the complete opposite as arguably the best day of racing so far played out on the twisted dippers that form the parcours across this part of France’s Massif Central. Five categorized climbs, a 1588m pass, wind, fog, slippery roads, and a treacherous descent, and a stinger of a climb inside the last 10km. Whoa.
Any stage that sees the gc men sprinting for top 5 placings … ain’t no rest day.
The start saw Will Frischkorn attempting another “K Zero” break, but the group would have only 4 kilometers worth. Nice to see, though.
Today was truly a hard day. David Millar said afterwards, “We went flat out, and I mean flat out, from kilometer zero.” Facci of Quick Step and Christophe Moreau of Agritubel had abandoned during the earlier part of the race. C’est la vie. Even PEZ-Fave Maggy Backstedt missed the time cut today – that bites.
Another seemingly dangerous break was let up the road, but not by much. They were given a short while out front, but brought back once the group felt the time was right. The early break had some classic names in it. David Millar (Garmin Chipotle – H30), Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner).
An Italian and Spanish quartet put in their desperate bid for victory and it contained Josep Jufre and David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne), and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas). This break settled in and the peloton set up the lazy chase behind. Well, as lazy as a chase could be on such a rolling course.
Lots of teams threw their backs into the chase: Euskaltel, and of course Columbia worked hard to bring the 4 escapees back as they whittled the lead down to under a minute with 10 miles to go.
Behind, a grupetto of sorts that had formed earlier was sitting over 12 minutes back, with names like McEwen, Hincapie, Sylvain Chavanel, and Zabel. It was a bumpy profile, and certainly the big sprinters might have had a bit of trouble with it.
10KM To Go
The last 10k featured a nasty little climb with pitches at 10%, before a narrow twisting descent back into Aurillac. After a full day of race and chase, the main bunch was back together and closing on the fugitives, and even contained fastmen like Green jersey Thor Hushovd and Robbie McEwen – no doubt hoping for a bunch sprint.
Liquigas infiltrated the chase and slowed things down for Nibali, who was ahead with his three break-mates and a mere 25 seconds in hand on the Cat 3 climb of St. Jeanne de Donne hoping for his sprint win, but CSC came to the fore to reinstate the chase, maybe for the Schleck brothers.
Straight into the climb and the fireworks began in earnest as Stefan Schumacher took off to bridge to the break and was covered by Pereiro. Filippo Pozzato jumped to make it three dangling off the main chase. The climb gradually went up a little bit, and Ricco leapt across, causing Pereiro to attack knowing that particular quartet would not be allowed to go.
Up front David de La Fuente attacked the break and went clear, but the bridging group caught the rest of the break and that spelled the end of David’s move.
The “break” had morphed into the lead peloton, with 25 or so riders strung out, containing all the big names and the yellow jersey of Kirchen, now without any teammates.
Luis Sanchez, after being in the day’s break, had time for a few deep breaths upon being initially caught, he then took his leave of the group with an all-or-nothing flyer off the top of the climb. He got away and had 10 seconds or so in hand at the 3k mark. Pozzato tried again to slip away and join the Spaniard to no avail, so his Liquigas teammates went to the front to bring him back. Sanchez went a bloc but put his TT prowess to good use as he flew under the 1k to go banner with 12 seconds in hand. A fantastic move seeing as he had burned so many matches in the break all day.
Do you think Schumacher is thinking about his lost Yellow Jersey?
With 10 seconds in hand and passing the 300 meter mark, Sanchez began to celebrate, while behind Kirchen himself lead the charge home, to be taken at the line by the eyebrow raising Stefan Schumacher and Pippo Pozzato.
The hardest day of the Tour so far was one for the books! Now that was a cracker of a stage!
Safe and sound: Cadel Evans is six seconds back.
TDF08 Stage 7 Results:
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
2. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner
3. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas
4. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team CSC
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
6. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euslaktel-Euskadi
8. Josep Jufre (Spa) Saunier Duval
9. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Gamrin-Chipotle
10. Andy Schleck (Lux) Team CSC
TDF08 General classification After Stage 7
1. KIRCHEN Kim 41 TEAM COLUMBIA 28h 23′ 40″
2. EVANS Cadel 1 SILENCE – LOTTO 28h 23′ 46″ + 00′ 06″
3. SCHUMACHER Stefan 111 GEROLSTEINER 28h 23′ 56″ + 00′ 16″
4. VANDEVELDE Christian 191 GARMIN CHIPOTLE 28h 24′ 24″ + 00′ 44″
5. MENCHOV Denis 131 RABOBANK 28h 24′ 43″ + 01′ 03″
6. VALVERDE Alejandro 31 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 28h 24′ 52″ + 01′ 12″
7. MILLAR David 198 GARMIN CHIPOTLE 28h 24′ 54″ + 01′ 14″
8. DEVOLDER Stijn 91 QUICK STEP 28h 25′ 01″ + 01′ 21″
9. PEREIRO SIO Oscar 37 CAISSE D’EPARGNE 28h 25′ 01″ + 01′ 21″
10. LЦVKVIST Thomas 48 TEAM COLUMBIA 28h 25′ 01″ + 01′ 21″
11. SANCHEZ Samuel 27 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 28h 25′ 07″ + 01′ 27″
12. SASTRE Carlos 11 TEAM CSC SAXO BANK 28h 25′ 14″ + 01′ 34″
13. SCHLECK Frank 17 TEAM CSC SAXO BANK 28h 25′ 36″ + 01′ 56″
14. SCHLECK Andy 16 TEAM CSC SAXO BANK 28h 25′ 38″ + 01′ 58″
15. KOHL Bernhard 115 GEROLSTEINER 28h 25′ 43″ + 02′ 03″
16. MONFORT Maxime 189 COFIDIS 28h 25′ 47″ + 02′ 07″
17. CUNEGO Damiano 71 LAMPRE 28h 25′ 49″ + 02′ 09″
18. ASTARLOZA Mikel 22 EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 28h 25′ 56″ + 02′ 16″
19. VALJAVEC Tadej 109 AG2R-LA MONDIALE 28h 25′ 59″ + 02′ 19″
20. KREUZIGER Roman 65 LIQUIGAS 28h 26′ 00″ + 02′ 20″
Jered Sez: My sincerest apologies for my monster gaffe yesterday on the old ENECO Tour fiasco – it was Hincapie who took the dive, not Schumacher. And thanks to all the readers who pointed it out!