Sylvain Chavanel became the first Frenchman since Laurent Jalabert to claim two stage wins in a Tour de France today in Station des Rousses. On the first summit finish of this year's race, the Quick Step team put on a textbook show of teamwork and timing as J?r?me Pineau launched himself in an early break to earn maximum king of the mountains points, eventually resisting alone on the final climb. Teammate and stage 2 winner Sylvain Chavanel made his own counter-attack from a chasing group to catch and pass Pineau, soloing to victory and a new yellow jersey.
Yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara cracked completely on the final climb, having clawed his way back to the field on each of the previous two climbs. In the end, he knew his stint in yellow was done and languished home many minutes later. For Chavanel, the disappointment of losing his yellow jersey after stage 3 was wiped away as he improbably fought his way back to the top of the standings.
The pack with Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, during the seventh stage of the Tour de France.
AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski
"The farther along we got in the Tour de France, the more disappointed I was not to have the jersey back," Chavanel said at the finish, acknowledging the unlikely scenario that played out in today's stage. "Today I had the legs and this is a bit of revenge for me."
"I wanted to win again but I didn't expect this second victory to come so quickly," he added. "I just want to enjoy this moment right now."
The overall favorites stayed together, as expected, and with a minor shuffling of the classification after Cancellara's loss of time, the race looks ready for the first real GC showdown tomorrow on the slopes to Avoriaz.
Heading into today's seventh stage, Quick Step had a primary objective and that was to conserve its lead in the king of the mountains classification. Polka dot jersey J?r?me Pineau was indeed vigilant enough to place himself in the early break and consequently earned the maximum points available on every climb except the last rise to Station des Rousses. The 165.5km stage featured six mid-level climbs on the road from Tournus to Station des Rousses, increasing in difficulty as another hot day wore on.
Pineau was joined in the early move by German national champion Christian Knees (Milram), Samuel Dumoulin (Cofidids), Danilo Hondo (Lampre) and Ruben Perez (Euskaltel Euskadi). By the summit of the day's first climb, the C?te de l'Aub?pin, the quintet had moved more than eight minutes clear of the peloton, having covered the fastest opening hour of racing since the Tour began.
The gap then fell slowly but steadily and was down to 4 minutes by the summit of the C?te du Barrage de Vouglans. Summiting the penultimate climb, the Col de la Croix de la Serra. Pineau once more claimed maximum points on the summit, his work essentially done for the day given the unlikely chances of this break staying away until the finish. He had whittled his breakaway down to just one other man, Hondo, and the duo were now pursued by a constantly shifting chase including Damiano Cunego, Thomas Voeckler, .Sylvain Chavanel, Matthew Lloyd, among others. Nonetheless, the polka dot jersey inspired Pineau and he carried on.
Pineau and Hondo had 2'20" on the yellow jersey of Fabian Cancellara and 50 seconds on the chasers as they plunged towards the final difficulty of the day, the C?te de Lamoura, which would take the field to its first summit finish at Station des Rousses.
Chavanel's move to bridge to the chasing group put him in the virtual yellow jersey ahead of the final climb. He knew this, and decided his fate would be better sealed alone. He jumped clear from the chase group in an effort to bridge to Pineau, who himself had attacked and dropped Danilo Hondo.
Quick Step has more than made up for sprinter Tom Boonen's absence, with the Chavanel-Pineau duo racing every day for the polka dot and yellow jerseys and enjoying their success and camaraderie. Today's display on the run-up to the C?te de Lamoura was textbook racing.
"I gave everything on the last climb," Pineau explained. "I knew Sylvain was behind me and when I saw he was on his own I thought I'd help him for a few meters. But the way he went by me I knew he was really strong."
When asked what words were spoken as he passed his friend and teammate, Chavanel said that Pineau's only words were, "go! go!"
"I have a great team around me and J?r?me was very strong today," the new yellow jersey said as he received hugs of congratulations at the finish. "I was well-placed on the final climb so I thought ok, I'm going to go."
GC Favorites Stick Together
The contenders for the overall Tour title nervously watched each other on the lower slopes of the C?te de Lamoura. Lance Armstrong and Andy Schleck eyed each other while Alberto Contador had his Astana team set the tempo on the middle slopes of the climb. Ultimately, all of the favorites would stay together, preferring to wait for tomorrow's tougher Alpine stage to test their legs and their rivals. Along with Fabian Cancellara, the only casualty of the top five overall was young British rider Geraint Thomas of Team Sky. The white jersey would move to the shoulders of Andy Schleck by day's end.
"I knew when I saw the profile that we weren't going to drop Cadel (Evans) or anyone today and I expected him to take the jersey," Schleck commented later.
"To be really honest, today was a lot harder than expected," he admitted. "I looked around and I tried to find weaknesses... I couldn't find any."
Cadel Evans moves into second place overall, 1 minute 25 seconds behind Chavanel, while Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal hung tough to move himself into third, well-positioned against the remainder of the favorites. Alberto Contador sits in sixth place while Lance Armstrong has some ground to make up from 14th place, 3 minutes 20 seconds behind Chavanel (1 minute 51 seconds back from Evans).
Stage 7 Results
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) - 04:22:52
- Rafael Valls Ferri (FOT) +00:57
- Juan Manuel Garate (RAB) +01:27
- Thomas Voeckler (BBO) +01:40
- Mathieu Perget (GCE) +01:40
- Daniel Moreno Fernandez (OLO) +01:40
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) 33:01:23
- Cadel Evans (BMC) +01:25
- Ryder Hesjedal (GRM) +01:32
- Andy Schleck (SAX) +01:55
- Alexandre Vinokourov (AST) +02:17
- Alberto Contador (AST) +02:26
14. Lance Armstrong (RSH) +03:16
17. Levi Leipheimer (RSH) +03:39
24. Christopher Horner (RSH) +04:03
79. George Hincapie (BMC) +22:23
- Astana 99:12:43
- Rabobank +00:56
- Caisse d'Epargne +01:24
- Sky Pro Cycling +01:29
- RadioShack +02:07
Overall Points Standings
- Thor Hushovd (CTT) - 118 Points
- Alessandro Petacchi (LAM) - 114 Points
- Robbie McEwen (KAT) - 105 Points
King of the Mountains Jersey
- Jerome Pineau (QST) - 44 Points
- Sylvain Chavanel (QST) - 36 Points
- Mathieu Perget (COF) - 28 Points
Best Young Rider
- Andy Schleck (SAX) - 33:03:18
- Roman Kreuziger (LIQ) +01:44
- Rafael Valls Ferri (FOT) +02:07
165.5K (102.8 miles) - Saturday July 10
- Both Tournus and Station des Rousses are first-time stage towns
- Flat roads end at kilometer 40 on this stage; from there it's all up and down with climbs lasting anywhere from 6 to 12 kilometers
- Sprint Points at: Cormoz, Saint-Amour, Molinges
- Mountain Passes: Cote de l'Aubepin located at 51.5 kilometers - 4.9km climb to 5 percent grade - Category 3; Cote des Granges (DESSIA) at 69 kilometers - 5.9km climb to 3.5 percent -- Cat. 4; Cote d'Arinthod at 84.5 kilometers - 8.5km climb to 4.7 percent - Cat. 3; Cote du barrage de Vouglans at 104 kilometers - 6.6km climb to 5.6 percent - Cat 2; Col de la Croix de la Serra at 134.5 kilometers - 15.7km climb to 4.3 percent - Cat. 2; Cote de Lamoura at 161.5 kilometers - 14.0km climb to 5 percent - Cat. 2