Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) had been the sole member of the Tour de France’s Big Four of overall favourites to avoid any involvement in the crash in the finale of stage 6 in Le Havre. It was perhaps inevitable, then, that the Spaniard would be a faller before the peloton had even left the cheese-making centre of Livarot at the start of stage 7.
Along with Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), Contador was brought down in a crash in the neutralised zone, though he was immediately back on his bike and reported no lingering effects from the fall when he crossed the finish line in Fougères almost four and a half hours later.
“I had a small crash in the neutralised zone. We were just talking about crashes when five people fell in front of me and I went down,” Contador said as he picked his way through the traffic in the finish area and made his way towards the team bus. “It was impossible to avoid it. Luckily, I didn’t do any damage and I was back up straight away.”
That early scare aside, there would be no frissons for Contador or any of the overall contenders as the race made its way through the wheat fields of Normandy and into Brittany. The relatively still conditions curtailed the risk of echelons while a stretch of narrow roads in the final 50 kilometres passed without incident.
“In theory it was a quieter day but with incredible tension as always,” Contador said. “But the team protected me and it went well apart from my crash early on.”
Contador finished the day safely in the main peloton and he lies in 7th place overall, 36 seconds down on yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky). The bulk of that deficit came when Contador was distanced by Froome on the Mur de Huy on Monday but he did not envisage similarly large gaps among the main contenders when the race visits the Mur de Bretagne on stage 8.
On the Tour’s last visit to Mur de Bretagne in 2011, Contador was very much to the fore, opening the attacking with a vicious acceleration at the base of the climb, with 1.4 kilometres remaining. He then shut down a move from Philippe Gilbert in the final 300 metres but ultimately had to settle for second place after being edged out by Cadel Evans in a tight sprint.
This time around, however, Contador was adamant that the terrain was better-suited to his Tinkoff-Saxo stable-mate Peter Sagan, who is just 11 seconds off Froome’s lead following his third place finish in the bunch sprint in Fougères.
“It’s true that in 2011 I came close to winning there, I was just beaten by Evans, but I think it’s going to be a stage better-suited to sprinters like Sagan,” Contador said. “It’s certainly going to be a complicated day because everybody is going to be fighting for the seconds, although there will be more important days on the race. But I’m feeling good and we’ll see what happens.”