By Graham Jones
and Barry Boyce

CyclingRevealed Historians

 

 

Tour de France Champions Living and Dead

 

 

 

 

 

 

CyclingRevealed's First Impressions '08

Stage 7 - (Friday) July 11th, Brioude to Aurillac, 159 km Rolling Stage

Nerves of Steel

Flat roads are a rarity in the Cantal region of France. The race profile map clearly shows five categorised climbs are on tap to terrify the flat-landers and bring smiles to the face of climbers. Perhaps the toughest challenges were the two Category 2 climbs ( Col d'Entremont at km 101 and Puy Mary km 117). Unlike yesterday the finish is on flat roads but the stinger was the Category 3 climb which crests only 9kms from the finish. The roads leading to this climb and then down into town are narrow, winding and dangerous. The GC contenders will no doubt be taking great caution here to both avoid spills and to make sure that they are not distanced. They will need nerves of steel!


The narrow roads on the descent of the Puy Mary: narrow and dangerous
[ Image ©: www.puymary.fr ]

KoM Battle

Two Frenchmen locked in a great battle for the Polka Dot Jersey will have five opportunities to score points. Although the point totals are the same Sylvain Chavanel wears the jersey because he won the highest category climb (stage 6's Cat. 2 climb). Thomas Voeckler has his work cut out to regain the jersey.

Rip the Race Apart

Over the second climb of the day a group of five escaped. The breakaway group included third placed David Millar and began to pressure the peloton. At high speed a crash in the field split the hard chasing peloton. When Caisse d'Epargne pulled back the breakaway, Luis Leon Sanchez immediately attacked. CSC kept the speed was very high and the packs were scattered behind. Most of the favourites were in the 25 rider lead group. M issing notables from the lead group were Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), George Hincapie ( Columbia ), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole).

The chase was long and hard but the second group caught the breakaway at the base of the Col d'Entremont with 66 km to the finish. Quickly two riders attacked the climb and slowly opened a solid gap. Nervously Team Columbia led peloton to keep the breakaway's gap manageable.

Narrow, Winding and Dangerous

Over the summit of the Col d'Entremont the breakaway was four riders. The country roads were become narrow and increasing dangerous. The peloton eased the tempo and the breakaway gradually extended their lead to 2'00.

Attach your seatbelt for the descent of the Puy Mary . The breakaway rode over the summit with a 1'26 lead and began the plunge down the mountain. Damp roads made the bad bends in the road treacherous. David de la Fuente had several high speed wobbles through a hairpin turn and lost contact with the breakaway.

De la Fuente rejoined the breakaway, which maintained a 1'03 lead.

The Closing Kilometers

The next difficulty is the Cote de Saint-Jean-de-Donne. This 1.7 km climb is short but steep with an average gradient of 9.9 percent.

Big guns attack from the peloton stringing out the pack as David de la Fuente surged past his breakaway companions. Oscar Pereiro lead the climb and pulled back De la Fuente. Over the final summit of the day a select group snaked their way down the narrow descent. Not to be denied Sanchez escaped again. Credit Agricole drove the second group for their sprinter Thor Hushovd.

Sanchez, the Spanish time trial champion, held the elite chase at bay. Under the 1 km to go banner Sanchez had a 13 second lead. Fighting a strong head wind Sanchez took several glances behind. The hard charging pack could not close and Sanchez held on to his lead.

Pointing to the heavens Luis Leon Sanchez stole the day. The Caisse d'Epargne rider rode across the finish line for a spectacular stage win. Stefan Schumacher sprinted in for second place.


Stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez
[ Image ©: www.gazzetta.it/AFP ]

 

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