Sanchez Takes Stage 7 of Tour
Luis Leon Sanchez has given Caisse d'Epargne its second stage win of this year's Tour de France. Sanchez soloed away from the field in the last four kilometers to win the rugged, 159-km stage from Brionde to Aurillac in 3:52:53. Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) outsprinted Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) for second at 0:06. Kim Kirchen (Columbia) remains the maillot jaune.
From the start, the racing was aggressive. After a series of attacks that Columbia and Caisse d'Epargne chased down, David Millar (Garmin), Jens Voigt (CSC), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), and Benoit Vaugrenard (Francaise des Jeux) escaped. The sextet forged a 0:30 lead before Columbia rode down the move. The stage's climbs (there were five categorized ones) and the peloton's speed split the bunch into three groups, with the lead group containing most of the favorites.
With 60 kilometers remaining, David De La Fuente and Josep Jufre (both from Saunier Duval) attacked, and Sanchez and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) joined them. The lead group never let the quartet lead by more than 2:00, and on the descent of the Category 3 Cote de Saint-Jean-de-Donne (150 kilometers), the day's final climb, the chase group caught the break. With three kilometers remaining, however, Sanchez escaped. The Spanish time trial champion built a 0:20 lead and held on to win.
In the overall, Kirchen leads Cadel Evans (Silence) by 0:06 and Schumacher by 0:16. Stage 8 will probably not have as much combustion as Stage 7 did. The rolling, 172.5-kilometer run from Figeac to Toulouse will feature four categorized climbs in the first 70 kilometers of racing. The final 55 kilometers, however, will be flat to rolling, which should set up a sprint finish. Who will win? Robbie McEwen (Silence)? Oscar Freire (Rabobank)? Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)? Robert Hunter (Barloworld)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!