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Brice Feillu steps out of his brothers shadow today to bring the honor of a stage win to his family and team.  Feillu was part of a nine-man

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

Feillu splintered a nine man break to take Stage 7

break that whittled down on the mountain top finish in Arcalis.  Initially looking weak, Feillu surprised all by jumping halfway up the above category climb.  He held on to take the stage.  The rest of the break straggled in behind him.  Contador fired the third shot in the battle for Astana preeminence (the first being the time trial – expected & second Lance’s crosswind attack – on the margins).  He took it upon himself to attack rather than cover attackers in the most blatant self-serving move to date.  Outside of the politics, it was a brilliant move.  He clearly has the legs to challenge the best.

As it happened:  At about 45km a stable break formed to include Gutierrez, Martinez, Riblon, Nocentini, Kuschynski, Kern, Pineau, Feillu and Frohlinger.  The highest placing of the group was Nocentini at 3:13.  As such none were considered a threat by the GC contenders and were allowed to go up the road in the name of stabilizing the peloton.  The group extended their lead to more than 12 minutes over the next 140km.

The peloton largely stuck together with Astana taking the helm as if they held Yellow.  Saxo’s absence from the front was telling relative to their expectations of Cancellara.  With 25km to go, Astana started to turn up the dial as Paulinho, Popovych and Zubeldia set a blistering pace.  As they fell off one by one, the pressure ratcheted up but the gap had not fallen enough to clear all of the break riders from the GC standings.  The GC chase group, including all the favorites, continued to grab back time rapidly but was running out of real estate.  Ahead in the break, Feillu jumped at 5.5km fracturing the group in the process.  The GC chase heavy still with Astana riders stuck together until the Cadel took a shot.  He was marked rapidly but seconds later Contador took off.  Contador in his trademark acceleration pealed off the front leaving the chase in the dust.  He grew the lead steadily to the line putting distance all the favorites including his coleader, Lance.

Contador came close but did not gain enough time to garner the yellow.  The GC did shake up a little as the break rider, Nocentini, held enough of a gap to put himself in yellow.  Contador leaps Lance with Leipheimer and Wiggins rounding out the top 5.

When interviewed, Armstrong, Leipheimer and even the director Johan Bruyneel said that Contador was off script.  He was expected to work with the team as a group and prepare to cover the moves of the GC threats.  Contador’s was rather guarded in his after race interview.  He said he was testing his legs and was hopeful to put some distance on his competitors.  As if heeding Hinault’s words in commentary this morning, he effectively threw the gauntlet down.

Other Riders in the GC group look very good.  Though none has truly played their hand. Cadel Evans jump at the 2km mark showed excellent form though a straining chase group including Andy & Frank Schleck, Bradley Wiggins, Levi Leipheimer, Tony Martin, Lance Armstrong, Denis Menchov, Carlos Sastre, Vladimir Karpets and Christian Vande Velde were able to marked him. Team Garmin continues to looks strong with a strong performance by Wiggins and Vande Velde.  I think this group was content to shake out their legs in readiness for the next two mountain stages.  There is as they say, a long way to go.

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

Contador crosses the finish a few seconds shy of yellow

I’d love to be a fly on the wall on the Astana team bus tonight.  Things will probably get heated.  The individual and team expectation seem to be at odds.  Compounding the problem are matters of trust.  I wonder if Contador thinks the director favors Lance and as such is holding him back.  When riders are expected to sacrifice for the team, resentments are bound to follow especially when rolls are not defined. This seems like Lemond/Hinault all over again i.e. the senior statesman vs. the talent.  Were Contador to have earned the Yellow Jersey, Lance and the other riders’ options would be limited.  They would be expected to fall in line and support their rider.  As it is, the riders will feel less encumbered by prescribed strategy especially in the face of Contador’s defection from the team.  It will be interesting to see what face is put on this in the morning.

Now the final matter for today, what the heck is up with Boonen?  He can’t seem to catch a break in the last three days.

  • Stage 5 – two flats
  • Stage 6 – wreck
  • Stage 7 – another wreck
  • Not a single sprint point to date.

I’m throwing all the mojo I can muster at Booney to overcome his poor fortune and get in the mix.

Stage Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Profile

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Map

Stage 7 Recap

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Stage 7 Video


Stage 7 Results

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           6:11:31
2          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          0:00:05
3          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:00:25
4          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          0:00:26
5          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:00:45
6          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          0:01:05
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:32
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          0:03:14
9          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:03:26
10          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:47
11          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
12          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank
14          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana
15          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana
16          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC
17          Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank
18          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team
19          Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team Katusha
20          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream

Polka Dot Jersey Overall

1           Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel           49            pts
2          Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale          46
3          Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne          46
4          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          43
5          Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale          34
6          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          32
7          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          23
8          José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne          20
9          Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) Liquigas          17
10          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          15

Overall Standings

1           Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale           25:44:32
2          Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana          0:00:06
3          Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana          0:00:08
4          Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana          0:00:39
5          Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin – Slipstream          0:00:46
6          Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana          0:00:54
7          Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia – HTC          0:01:00
8          Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin – Slipstream          0:01:24
9          Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:01:49
10          Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas          0:01:54
11          Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step          0:02:10
12          Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia – HTC          0:02:21
13          Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank          0:02:25
14          Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas          0:02:40
15          Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test Team          0:02:52
16          Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram          0:02:54
17          Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas          0:03:03
18          Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence – Lotto          0:03:07
19          Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel – Euskadi          0:03:10
20          Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia – HTC          0:03:16


I went in to the 2008 Tour de France wondering if I would be as invested in the race as in past years.  I find that I’ve been hedging commitment to the race for several weeks leading up to the start.  After some thought, several reasons jump to mind. 

·         There is the closure of the Discovery team and the subsequent scattering of the team members to the three winds. 

·         There is the hardheaded ASO decision to deny Astana the opportunity to race and along with it two of my favorites, Contador and Leipheimer as well as the ever fascinating director Johan Bruyneel. 

·         There is the decision of Versus to deny the cable impaired a live online video feed relegating us to the semi-live twitter like updates from the major news and team outlets.  

·         Let’s not forget the yearly sponsor and rider changes to navigate. 


So with all this nonsense to contend with, who could figure where I’d be three stages in?  Yes, you guessed it, as buried in it as a solo break 5K out with a 2 minute gap. 


The two American teams Team Columbia (High Road) and Team Garmin – Chipotle are square in the middle of it.  They have several riders including today’s 2nd place finisher Will Frischkorn and yesterday’s 2nd and 3rd place finishers Kim Kirchen and Gerald Ciolek who are bringing me along for the ride. 


I’m not sure how these teams will play out in the GC but they have clearly come to challenge individual stages.  There is a rather rebellious side to each of these teams that hint at more fun to come.  


The interview at the end of the stage with Frischkorn was fascinating.  Clearly still wound up from the stage finish, he recounted the story of the finishing kilometers as a series of missteps.  He just knew that he could get it right if they just rewind to 5K out and restart. He wore the disappointment of opportunity lost on his sleeve.  He is a novice to grand tour riding which was a refreshing contrast more controlled interviews of the favorites.  It was very entertaining. 


Tomorrow’s time trial will finally stack the players in this year’s race.  I’m hopeful George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, Christian Vande Velde, and David Millar will shake it up a bit finding their way into the top 10 or 15.  Either way this year is wide open, enjoyably so.

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