Rolland loses his dots, Voeckler hit by heat
It was a day of mixed emotions for Europcar who received a double-blow at the end of Stage 7 to Albi after 205km racing. Despite Cyril Gautier infiltrating the breakaway and holding on until the final kilometers it was the team's captains that lost out. Pierre Rolland fell short of retaining his lead in the KoM classification by a single point while Thomas Voeckler's perhaps lax approach to bunch position saw him cross the finish line with the main group of sprinters – more than 15 minutes down on stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
The team may not have intended on defending Rolland's lead in the polka-dot competition but he still showed his intention by contesting the second climb of the day, the Col de la Croix de Mounis but was beaten to the line by the new mountains leader on the road Blel Kadri's (Ag2r La Mondiale) teammate Romain Bardet. Rolland will start the first proper mountain stage to Ax 3 Domaines with one point separating him from Kadri.
"We said we would not contest the polka dot jersey today. Although Pierre will be monitored, he will be less identifiable with a Europcar jersey," said directeur sportif Andy Flickinger on the Europcar team site.
For Voeckler, his often familiar spot at the back of the bunch may have contributed to his huge time loss. Always looking for an opportunity to attack however, the Frenchman was putting a positive spin on his fall down the GC rankings.
"It was a difficult day for me," said Voeckler on his personal Facebook page. "Over the years, my body needs more time to acclimatise to the heat. I went back to the car to take water aspirin and at the same time the team of Sagan has accelerated. Well played on their part! Their maneuver was fatal. I ended up with the sprinters.
"The advantage is that now there may be better days! I hope to use this to my advantage on the coming weekend but I will need my best legs."
Gilbert refused stage victory
It's a different kind of Tour de France this year for current road world champion Philippe Gilbert. Team BMC has arrived at the centennary edition with two leaders for the general classification with Cadel Evans leading the charge and rising start Tejay van Garderen second in command if the Australian should fall by the wayside.
Gilbert has been hard at work support his younger teammate van Garderen and whilst he has been performing at a level good enough to target a stage win, his personal ambitions has fallen on deaf ears - at least for now. For someone like Gilbert, who is used to being the protected rider, keeping up the morale and enduring spirit has been tough when all his energy has been used to keep the likes of van Garderen and Evans out of trouble and protected from the wind. Will he get his chance to go for a stage victory? Even the former yellow jersey wearer is unsure.
"It's hard to have fun if you have no ambitions because then the tour takes a very long time. It's like you go fishing but nothing can catch" Gilbert told Nieuwsblad.
"Normally, this stage (eight) would suit me but the team is not interested in stage wins. Therfore I should not try. The goal is just to keep the leaders from the wind. That's not easy to accept but it is a decision of the team."
Stybar eyeing 2014 Tour debut
Zdenek Stybar visited his Omega Pharma – Quick-Step teammates the day after British champion Mark Cavendish notched up his 24th Tour victory and opened his 2013 winning account. Stybar has been enjoying a long break after the classics season and was invited to appear as a guest for Sporza television show Vive le Velo and stated his desire to ride the Tour in 2014. Whether that be in support of the team's number-one sprinter Mark Cavendish is yet to be seen.
"I hope next year. If we're here with Cav, it's, of course, to support Cav. There's three weeks to pick some stage, and I think that there would be something that I would love," said Stybar, thinking ahead. "The first year is always about the experience, but if there's a chance, then you have got to take it."
The former cyclo-cross star is yet to announce his next race appointment however, if last year's schedule is anything to go by, fans of the upcoming classics contender can expect to see the Czech rider line up for the Vuelta a España.
"It will probably be the same - like last year. It's very difficult to say what I'm going to do and where. I think it's just going to be like last year."
Bakelants eyeing more success, in support of Fränk Schleck
A stage win, two days in the maillot jaune and a most aggressive rider award is enough to deem any grand tour a success but the hunger for more led Jan Bakelants to attack again on Stage 7. He was swept up in the dying kilometers of the stage into Albi and earned another most aggressive award for his efforts.
"I remain convinced that if there had been a little less headwind and a shorter final straight, I had the legs to go all the way to the finish," Bakelants told Lavenir.
The RadioShack Leopard rider may have to play the team card during the first mountain stages this weekend but he has already announced his plans for upcoming stages: he wants more. The exact place and time may be yet to be decided but he believes his form is good enough to get another taste of victory champagne before the race reaches Paris.
"The sensations are excellent and I adapt quite well to the heat. What will I do in the coming days? I do not know yet, we'll see how the race unfolds. All I know is that I will try my luck as soon as it presents itself to me."
In regard to the dumping of Fränk Schleck after reportedly supporting the former rider during his ban: "I think he has been sufficiently punished for what he did. He has my full support," he added.
Mollema up for Pyrenean test
Taking a spill during Stage 6 at the Tour left Bauke Mollema a little uncomfortable during yesterday's stage from Montpellier to Albi, especially when Cannondale liften the pace mid-way through the stage but the Belkin GC man was upbeat about the coming mountain test, believing he's ready for the demanding summit finish to Ax 3 Domaines.
"My body was still a little stiff from yesterday's crash, but it's not a big deal. With some long climbs, the parcours today was rather challenging. Over the last hundred kilometres, the racing was intense in order to drop some sprinters but I could maintain the pace very well. Tomorrow is the first real test for the classification guys and I am feeling up to it," he said on his team site.