Gonchar Takes Stage 7 of Tour, Leads Race
Sergei Gonchar (T-Mobile) has won Stage 7 of the Tour de France. Gonchar, who is a former world time trial champion, overpowered the field to win the rolling, 52-km time trial from Saint-Gregoire to Rennes in 1:01:43. Floyd Landis (Phonak) overcame a mechanical problem to finish second at 1:00, and Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) took third at 1:04. Gonchar is the new maillot jaune.
Gustav Larsson (Francaise des Jeux), Sweden?s time trial champion, set the early standard with a 1:03:17. Larsson?s time held for one hour and 45 minutes until Lang bettered it by 0:30. Lang?s time was good, but the GC threats were not yet on the course.
Levi Leipheimer, Lang?s teammate, was expected to get close to the yellow jersey. Leipheimer, is a good time trialist and finished third in the Dauphine Libere?s time trial last month. Today, however, Leipheimer had what the French call un jour sans, a bad day. The Montanan lost 1:30 to Denis Menchov (Rabobank), who was the fastest at the 16.5-km checkpoint. Leipheimer continued losing time and finished 6:05 behind Gonchar. Leipheimer?s hopes of arriving in Paris in yellow are gone.
Bobby Julich (CSC) is a solid time trialist. Today, however, the American never showed what he can do. Five km after starting, Julich crashed on a roundabout and laid open his right hand. The wound required stitching, which took Julich out of the Tour.
David Zabriskie, Julich?s teammate and compatriot, was expected to make a good showing. The American, however, never reconnoitered the course, and was surprised to discover that it was rolling rather than flat. Zabriskie was never in the running and finished 13th at 1:56.
Three-time world time trial champion Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) started the day in second overall, and many expected the Australian to ride well enough to take the yellow jersey. Rogers rode solidly and finished fourth, but he finished 1:23 behind Gonchar. Another T-Mobile rider, Andreas Kloden, finished eighth at 1:43, 0:01 behind Marcus Fothen (Gerolsteiner), who finished seventh.
All, however, paled in comparison with Gonchar. The Ukrainian was 0:17 faster than Landis at the first checkpoint and 0:42 faster at the second. A mechanical problem hindered the American, who had to change bikes. Still, Gonchar was the faster rider, and he said that only his 2000 world championship gave him a better memory than today?s victory.
In the overall, Gonchar leads Landis by 1:00 and Rogers by 1:08. Stage 8 will not change this state of affairs. The rolling, 181-km run from Saint-Meen-le-Grand to Lorient should see a break get away from a peloton that has tired legs from the time trial. Who will be in the break? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!