Tour de France

STAGE 7 : July 5

Montpellier → Albi


The day started with a breakaway of my man Blel Kadri and also my man Jens Voigt, survivors of a very early six-man break. Kadri won the King of the Mountains today, thanks to two climbs in the first half of the race. He fell off the front soon after the second climb, and Voigt (41 years old!) continued on alone. Cannondale started to push the chase, breaking a chase group off from the main bunch, which contained Griepel, Kittel, and Cavendish. They soon, inevitably, caught Voigt as well.

It didn’t seem like it at the moment, but this was where the race started, as Cannondale pushed hard to open a lead on the sprinter group and set Sagan up to win the points at the intermediate sprint at Viane Pierre-Segade:

Sagan widening his green jersey lead.

Bakelants took the lull after the sprint to attack, getting away with Gautier and Oroz. The three men worked well together, holding out for about 60km (almost a third of the race, actually) before finally getting swallowed by the peloton (aka, the Cannondale stampede) in Albi just 3km from the finish. Like Eurocar yesterday, there was no help from Radio Shack back in the peloton to protect Bakelants. Perhaps they had no one in the bunch, but it’s doubtful Cannondale would have tolerated anyone interfering with their plans. So no repeat of stage 2 for Bakelants though he was ‘virtual leader’ of the Tour during the breakaway (a meaningless title). He won the most combative rider of the day (‘le numéro rouge’?) and has really showed some fight this week.

Bakelants in the break.

The bunch of sprinters quickly became an afterthought as Cannondale pulled the lead group further and further away. The sprinters fell to over 12 minutes behind and by the 166km mark were up in the saddle and enjoying the conclusion of their Tour. There are still two weeks of racing left but these guys won’t put in much effort unless they’re guaranteed a shot at winning on a flat stage. By the end of the day, we weren’t talking about Cavendish anymore, finally.

In the end, Cannondale had powered the peloton for 110km, a dominant showing, allowing Sagan to take the stage handily, smoothly, saluting his team as he crossed the line. The win to Sagan, the glory to Cannondale.

It was exciting to see Blel Kadri win the King of the Mountains jersey, thanks to a nice bit of teamwork by AG2R (and a lot of help from Radio Shack’s Voigt and Bakelants). Voigt obligingly let Kadri cross in first on Col des 13 Vents and Col de la Croix de Mounis. After collecting 5 points for de Mounis (below), Kadri was at 12 points for the polka dot jersey.

But Rolland was chasing, and if he managed to cross de Mounis in third place (after Kdari and Voigt), he’d get 1 point and tie Kadri with 12. But as soon as Rolland jumped ahead of the peloton to chase that third place, Kadri’s AG2R teammate Romain Bardet grabbed Rolland’s wheel and followed the French rider in polka dot pajamas up the climb. Rolland had to do all the work and at the top Bardet easily rode past him, collected the last point, and assured that Kadri took sole possession of the King of the Mountains. (Bakelants in the three-man break would later take the points at Côte de la Quintaine, solidifying Kadri’s jersey.) A minor moment, certainly not in the real mountains, and not as Liggett-frothing as Henderson leading out Griepel, but a nice example of the subtler tactics of the Tour.

Bardet doing the right thing ahead of Rolland.

After six stages, there have been four riders to wear yellow. The record is eight for the whole race. Could be a new record this year.

Add Albi to the list of places to go and see:

Here is your daily champion for Stage 7:
Frederico Bahamontes, ‘The Eagle from Toledo’
Winner of the Tour in 1959 and considered one of the greatest climbers who ever lived. Great piece on Velominati (quickly becoming my favorite cycling site) on Bahamontes’s prima donna attitude, which isn’t reserved for sprinters.