Friday 11 July
Stage 7: Brioude–Aurillac: 159 km
Like 2007 Tour De France winner Alberto Contador, 24 year old Luis-Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne) was one of Spanish cycling guru Manolo Saiz’s most precious pupils. A stylish and complete rider from Murcia like Caisse d’Epargne leader Alejandro Valverde, the handsome Sanchez is considered one of the top future talents in the sport. Today in the last kilometers into Aurillac, he showed why. Recently crowned Spanish TT champ, Sanchez soloed home victorious ahead of the chase from the group for the biggest win of his five year pro career and pointed to the sky as he crossed the finish line to dedicate the race to his late brother.
“My win was like the one this spring at Paris but it’s a completely different thing”, explained Sanchez after his win. “I was trying to win the overall race then…my Tour has gotten off to a difficult start so I’m happy to win here. I had a lousy TT at Cholet (53rd @ 2’30”) where I hit a sidewalk and also had a mechanical. This is a lot better!”
The composed Sanchez said “When I saw I had a first chance today, I decided to go for it. When I was caught I thought it was over, but Pereiro came up to me and told me to try again. So I really have to thank my teammates for all the help they gave me today. I want to dedicate this win to my brother. (who died in a motorcycle accident in 2005) "We were really close, we rode together until the age of 21 and with my older brother, who plays professional football, we were always dedicating our victories to each other."
But Sanchez has his feet on the ground at this Tour, explaining “well, starting tomorrow, I’ll be back at my old job in the team, Alejandro (Valverde) and Oscar (Pereiro), our two riders who can bring the Maillot Jaune to Paris.”
Maillot Jaune Kirchen (Colombia) kept his race lead today after dealing with the pressure put on him by CSC-Saxo Bank midway through Stage 7, while Saunier Duval-Scott’s Davide de la Fuente took over the Maillot Pois of Best Climber by one point from Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis).
In his first day in the Maillot Jaune, Columbia's Kim Kirchen said "I was really calm at the start of the stage and I had good legs. The team was very strong and we were always ready to defend the Maillot Jaune. That gave me a lot of confidence so I have to thank my team again. I'm really happy to have the Maillot Jaune on Team Columbia.?
Speaking of his bad vibes with the Schleck Brothers, Kirchen explained "In Luxemburg, everyone knows we don't get along. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. We're in different teams so we are competitors so there are no gifts between us. You say today that when (CSC-Saxo Bank) attacked, they made the race very, very hard for us".
Tour second place Cadel Evans commented post-stage "Yeah, there was some action today! A lot more than we thought. I thought it might be relaxed today, With the side wind, the group was breaking up a lot. Luckily I was up front when it split and there were a lot of CSC riders who were riding hard. My team was really good, Popovych was with me in the finale and in the end it was an intense stage, both physically and mentally".
Kirchen's fellow Luxemburger Andy Shleck explained the CSC-Saxo Bank tactics post-stage,saying "If Caisse d'Epargne had ridden with us (when the peloton split after 60km) as well as the other riders up front. we could have ridden all the way to the finish. That would have been a great stage finish! But Caisse d'Epargn and the rest didn't want to ride, they waited and then it was too late because the peloton came back to us."
How It Happened
Stage Seven was a extremely difficult 159km stage from Brioude to Aurillac across the heart of France’s hilly Massif Central with 5 KOM’s & 2 sprints on the menu du jour. 176 cyclists started at 1:17pm and Moreau (AGR) and Frischkorn (GAR) attacked right away on the uphill start, but Columbia chased them down after 4km. At the first KOM after 11km on the Cat. 3 Côte de Fraisse, Millar, took the points from Casar and Moncoutié.
Five riders got a gap after 22km; Quinziato (LIQ), Arrieta (ALM), Pineau (BTL), Gutierrez (GCE) and Gerard (FDJ) but never gained more than 30” and were caught after 10km of liberty by Credit Agricole.
At sprint in St-Flour after 6.5km, it was Robbert Hunter (BAR) over McEwen (SIL) and Hushovd (CA) and on the climb out of town, it was Millar (GAR), Voigt (CSC), Scholz (GST), Barredo (QST), Florencio (BTL) and Vaugrenard (FDJ) on the attack. After 55km in the green Cantal countryside, Jegou (FDJ) crashed, broke his wrist and abandoned. Flecha (Rab) and Cunego (Lam) also crashed. The crash split the peloton and suddenly six CSC riders attacked and the move blew the peloton apart. There is no love lost between CSC’s Schleck Brothers and Maillot Jaune Kirchen so CSC’s move was probably to put pressure on Colombia and it worked.
25 riders made the split, Evans, Cioni, Sastre, Cancellara, Gustov, Schleck, Schleck, Voigt, Valverde, Pereiro, Sanchez, Kirchen, Lovkvist, Pozatto, Kreuziger, Nibali, Kohl, Valjavec, Menchov, Freire, Cobo, Ricco, Vaugrenard, Vande Velde and Millar. At the sprint Paulhac after 74km, it was Freire who bested Maillot Jaune Kirchen and Gustov (CSC).
The front group Maillot Jaune was finally caught by the first chase group after a hard chase of 30+ kilometers by Lampre with 66km to go in Murat. The Italian team was desparate to bring team leader Cunego back to the front of the race. was caught behind.
Right out of Murat with 66km to go, the third climb of the day, the Cat. 2 Col d’Entremont began and at the base of the ascent, Jufre (Saunier Duval-Scott) attacked, with Sanchez (GCE), Nibali and De La Fuente bridging. At the summit, the quartet had 1’15” on the group
Maillot Jaune, led by the Columbia team. Jufre’s move was clearly planned to help his teammate De La Fuente take the KOM points atop the Col d’Entremont, which he did.
Next up on the road to was the ascent of the penultimate climb of the day, the Cat.2 pas de Peyrol (Puy Mary), at 1588m. of altitude the highest pass in the Massif Central. De la Fuente, took the points again and looked like he would take over the Maillot Pois of Best Climber
in Aurillac. Behind the front four, Astaloza (Euskaltel) attacked with 4km to climb and was at 52” by the sumitt, while the Columbia led peloton was at 1’30”. Astarloza’s move didn’t work and on the long descent of the pas de Peyrol to the foot of the final ascent of Stage Seven, the steep Cat. 3 cote de Saint-Jean-de-Donne with 11km to go. De La Fuente took the points again to take over the Maillot Pois, with the group Maillot Jaune closing fast.
The cote de Saint-Jean-de-Donne turned out to be a nasty surprise for some, as the short, steep ramp enabled the group Maillot Jaune to lose some 19 riders to gap the other chasers. The break was caught on the fast descent into Aurillac, making it 23 riders up front. With four kilometers to go, Luis Leon Sanchez attacked on a downhill and his Caisse d’Epargne teammate left a gap, which enabled the 24 year old from Murcia to ride in solo as the Stage 7 winner in Aurillac, 6” ahead of stage runner-up Stefen Schumacher. Sanchez was also designate Most Aggressive Rider for his first career stage victory in the Tour de France
For Complete Tour De France Results, Click Here
Tour de France 7th stage result
Aurillac, France / July 11,
1. Luis Leon Sanchez (ESP/GCE)
3h52’53” / average speed 40,965 km/hr
2. Stefan Schumacher (GER/GST) @ “06”
3. Filippo Pozzato (ITA/LIQ)
Tour de France / Overall General Classification
Aurillac, France / July 11,
1. Kim Kirchen (LUX/COL) 28h23’40”
2. Cadel Evans (AUS/SIL) @ :06”
3. Stefan Schumacher (GER/GST) @ :16”
1. Kim Kirchen (LUX/COL) 119 pts
2. Oscar Freire (ESP/RAB) 91
3. Thor Hushovd (NOR/C.A) 90
King of Mountains:
1. David De la Fuente (ESP/SDV) 28 pts
2. Sylvain Chavanel (FRA/COF) 27
3. Thomas Voeckler (FRA/BTL) 27
Team Overall General Classification:
1. CSC / 85h13’26”
2. Columbia @ 2’52”
3. Caisse d'Epargne @ 3’29”
Saturday 12 July
Stage 8: Figeac–Toulouse—172.5 km
Stage 8, a transitional stage from the Massif Central to the Pyrenees region, is not difficult, but a fast start may see a group get away, then the sprinters’ teams will power up on the run-in to Toulouse and bring it all back together for the city center. Local resident Stuart O’Grady could be a dark-horse candidate for the Saturday afternoon win.