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TDF’11 St.7: Cavendish Rules A Crash Filled Day
From the gun, Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) and Gianni Meersman and Mickael Delage (both FDJ) immediately took their leave of the peloton inside the 1st kilometer. Sensing a chance, Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi) made the bridge to make the escapees a quartet. What the hell, may as well give it a shot and get some TV time, as today’s super flat stage had bunch sprint written all over it.

Stage 7 of the Tour de France, 218km from Le Mans to Chвteauroux

At 50 km to go it was business as usual as Garmin-Cervelo marshaled the front of the race with HTC never too far away, looking after the yellow jersey of Thor Hushovd, and sprinters Tyler Farrar and Mark Cavendish. Of note, earlier in the race Tom Boonen, still suffering from his crashes in earlier stages but riding valiantly, gave up the ghost and abandoned the Tour.

Tom Boonen tapped out today, succumbing to the injuries from his crash a few days ago.

The last sprint point of the day was coming up and with the green jersey competition so close, the front of the group also contained the front runners vying for the verdant tunic: Gilbert, Rojas, Cavendish, etc.

A massive pile up disrupted roughly half the group with about 35 km to go. Bradley Wiggins looked as though his collarbone was broken from the get go, as medical personnel had him seated and were feeling around on his shoulder. Tyler Farrar got hooked and looked beaten on his right side. Horner was on the deck, too. Piles of guys were all yard sale in the ditches lining the road.

The day's early break in the fields.

Groups of riders were forced to chase back on as Garmin and HTC kept the pace reasonable. Word had come up to the cars that Wiggins had indeed broken his collarbone and he was out of the race so all the guys sent back from Sky were forced to chase furiously. A shame for the Briton who looked to be on good form to challenge in the high mountains. Radioshack got snakebitten again, with both Leipheimer and Horner gapped badly and chasing.

The sprint point came and went, with Cav snatching valuable 5th place points. Rojas mixed in there and Gilbert nagged 8th. Looks like Matt Goss got in the mix to take some points away from others vying for green.

Johnny Hoogerland enjoyed his first day in dots - he'll get another one tomorrow.

The crash had caused huge splits. There was a big group with big names over a minute behind the yellow jersey group, and a fierce crosswind was complicating the chase with just 18 km to go. The leading quartet had only 34 seconds left of their break . HTC seemed unscathed and intact with all their riders looking after Cavendish. Farrar was in the 2nd group so that was a big sprint threat not present to fight Cav. Cancellara was driving the pace now – the same Cancellara who neutralized the race last year after a crash for one of his guys and here he was drilling it. Might raise a few eyebrows later.

The break started attacking itself, but this was just for show…the group was bearing down with speed.

The break is swept up, and Danny Pate took the nose of the race, with HTC lined up perfectly with Cav in tow. The 2nd group with a lot of other big names was a minute forty back – the Tour’s GC contenders seem this year to be being determined by luck alone early on. The 2nd group had a whopping 80 riders in it!

The day continued to get worse for Leipheimer, as he punctured and had to wait for a neutral wheel, and that would add even more time to his ride. Poor dude.

As the sprint wound up, Leopard-Trek took the front, Katusha also threw a few guys in there. Cadel Evans looked safe, tucked in near the front, staying out of trouble. Under 4km and HTC went back to the front and took control, with Eisel leading the way, the 6 HTC lined up behind with Cav tucked in safe.

Under the red kite, and HTC dropped off Cavendish perfectly and he won easily. Greipel of Omega Pharma Lotto gave it a go as did Alessandro Petacchi as Roman Feillu, but there was no getting over the Manx Missile this day.

Thor Hushovd and his yellow jersey finished safely, along with Contador and Evans, as well as the Schleck brothers. The GC fight lost Horner, Levi, and Wiggins today as a result of that big crash earlier.

Same ol, same ol for Thor Hushovd. Ho hum.

Jose Joaquin Rojas took over the Maillot Vert from Philippe Gilbert today.

Sky lost Wiggins and the white jersey of Geraint Thomas today. Ouch. Robert Gesink is now tops in that category.

The big group of 80 in the second peloton came home a whopping 3:06 behind. Wow. This year’s Tour sure is up for grabs.

Stage 7 Results
1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad 5:38:53
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Lampre - ISD
3 Andrй Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Romain Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5 William Bonnet (Fra) FDJ
6 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
7 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo
8 Sйbastien Turgot (Fra) Team Europcar
9 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Sйbastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale

General Classification After Seven Stages
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Team Garmin-Cervelo 28:29:27
2 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
3 Frдnk Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek 0:00:04
4 David Millar (GBr) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:00:08
5 Andreas Klцden (Ger) Team RadioShack 0:00:10
6 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek 0:00:12
7 Andy Schleck (Lux) Leopard Trek
8 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad 0:00:13
9 Peter Velits (Svk) HTC-Highroad
10 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:00:20


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