AFP; Photo: Bettini
Stephen Cummings grabbed a fourth win for British riders at the Tour de France in Friday’s seventh stage, escaping late drama when an inflatable arch collapsed and took out one competitor. The 35-year-old’s victory was a fourth in seven stages both for Brits and for the African team Dimension Data, for whom Mark Cavendish had already claimed three of the first six stages in sprint finishes. Cummings was part of a 29-man breakaway group before going solo 27km from the end of the 162.5km stage from l’Isle Jourdain to Lac de Payolle. Italian Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour champion, launched a counter-attack of three riders but Cummings proved too strong for them and rode away to win his second Tour stage in successive years. South African Daryl Impey was second with David Navarro of Spain third, both 1min 05sec behind. But it was also a great day for Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet, who was part of the original breakaway and finished fifth to extend his lead in the yellow jersey competition. He now leads Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe by 6:36 with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde two seconds further back in third.
There was late controversy, though, as the inflatable arch indicating the final kilometer collapsed and knocked young Briton Adam Yates off his bike, leaving him with a bloodied chin. The collapsed arch also slowed the progress of the peloton containing the favourites, including reigning champion Chris Froome, another Briton, and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana. The expected fireworks on the first major climb of this year’s Tour, the Col d’Aspin, never materialised, with two more tough Pyrenean stages to come over the weekend. French hope Thibaut Pinot suffered badly on the climb and lost around 2min 30sec.
An early 12-man breakaway included top sprinters Cavendish and Peter Sagan but they were never allowed more than 40sec on the peloton. With sprint points up for grabs farther up the road, Germans Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel put their teams to work to bring back their sprint rivals. No sooner was that group caught, than 29 riders got away 50km into the stage, which had been ridden at breakneck speed to that point. The big surprise was that amongst them were both the yellow jersey and Nibali.
Froome’s Sky, with some help from Quintana’s Movistar, took up pace-setting in the peloton, mindful that Nibali, while nine minutes back from other favourites, could become a factor if given too much leeway. When the break crept up to almost six minutes — giving Van Avermaet an 11-minute overall lead on the road — the peloton reacted decisively. But around 35km from the finish, the lead group started splintering, with four riders going clear at the front and another eight forming a chase group. Cummings, a former Olympic silver medallist and world champion from the track in the team pursuit, then attacked on his own 27km out while the 11 others — including Van Avermaet and Nibali — formed a chase group behind. Once the 11 hit the Col d’Aspin, Nibali attacked with only Impey and Navarro keeping his wheel, while in the peloton Pinot’s FDJ team set the pace, a decision he would perhaps later regret. Even with Nibali and Navarro collaborating, Cummings kept extending his lead and finished a comfortable stage winner.
1. Stephen Cummings (GBR/DDT) 3hrs 48min 09sec
2. Daryl Impey (RSA/ORI) at 1:04.
3. Daniel Navarro (ESP/COF) 1:04.
4. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA/AST) 1:58.
5. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 2:57.
6. Luis Angel Maté (ESP/COF) 3:37.
7. Geraint Thomas (GBR/SKY) 3:37.
8. Wouter Poels (NED/SKY) 3:37.
9. Gorka Izagirre (ESP/MOV) 3:37.
10. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 3:37.
11. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 3:37.
12. Roman Kreuziger (CZE/TIN) 3:37.
13. Richie Porte (AUS/BMC) 3:37.
14. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/ETI) 3:37.
15. Daniel Martin (IRL/ETI) 3:37.
16. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 3:37.
17. Pierre Rolland (FRA/CAN) 3:37.
18. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 3:37.
19. Stef Clement (NED/IAM) 3:37.
20. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 3:37.
21. Emanuel Buchmann (GER/BOA) 3:55.
22. Wilco Kelderman (NED/LNL) 3:37.
23. Louis Meintjes (RSA/LAM) 3:37.
24. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 3:37.
25. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 3:37.
26. Frank Schleck (LUX/TRE) 4:00.
27. Eduardo Sepulveda (ARG/FVC) 4:02.
28. Haimar Zubeldia (ESP/TRE) 4:09.
29. Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA/ALM) 3:37.
30. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 3:37.
31. Mikel Nieve (ESP/SKY) 3:37.
32. Sergio Henao (COL/SKY) 3:37.
33. Alberto Contador (ESP/TIN) 3:37.
1. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL/BMC) 34h09:44.
2. Adam Yates (GBR/ORI) at 5:50.
3. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA/ETI) 5:51.
4. Alejandro Valverde (ESP/MOV) 5:53.
5. Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP/KAT) 5:54.
6. Christopher Froome (GBR/SKY) 5:57.
7. Nairo Quintana (COL/MOV) 5:57.
8. Warren Barguil (FRA/GIA) 5:57.
9. Pierre Rolland (FRA/CAN) 5:57.
10. Daniel Martin (IRL/ETI) 5:57.
11. Fabio Aru (ITA/AST) 5:57.
12. Tejay Van Garderen (USA/BMC) 5:57.
13. Wilco Kelderman (NED/LNL) 5:57.
14. Romain Bardet (FRA/ALM) 5:57.
15. Bauke Mollema (NED/TRE) 5:57