Feillu wins first mountainous stage

Twenty-two years since it was first used in 1967, and 12 years after Jan Ullrich rode himself into the maillot jaune en route to victory at the 1997 Tour, AG2R La Mondiale's Rinaldo Nocentini became the next great beneficiary of Andorra Arcalis as the new leader of the 96th Tour de France.

"For me, this is incredible. When I jumped into the break this morning, I never thought about taking the yellow jersey. I rather thought about a stage win," said Nocentini, looking in total disbelief at first.

Unlike Ullrich, however, Nocentini did not win the longest stage of the race at 224 kilometres long. On Friday July 10, that honour went to neo-professional Brice Feillu of Agritubel, who proved strongest out of an original group of nine - which included Nocentini - that stayed away for almost 200 kilometres. The 23-year-old Frenchman from Châteaudun, who this year made his Tour de France debut alongside his elder brother Romain, waited till just after the six-kilometre-to-go banner before leaving his five remaining breakaway companions. Italian Nocentini finished 26 seconds behind.

"I believed I had a chance, as it was a finale to my taste," said Feillu. "With four kilometres to go, the gap was still the same, about 10 seconds, I think. Then it increased about 10 seconds every kilometre, but in the last kilometre it went down again and I got really frightened. I really dug deep then."

However, for experienced campaigner Nocentini, riding his 11th professional season this year and 3:13 down on overnight leader Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) at the start of the day, it was not the 26-second time gap that was important - it was the distance between him and the Astana duo of Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, because half a kilometre after Agritubel's Feillu attacked, Cancellara was dropped from the chase group containing all the main favourites.

The unexpected on Arcalis

Tipped as a summit finish for the pure climber, 8.7 percent in the opening kilometre before averaging 7.7 percent for the next three, the 10.6 kilometre ascent of Arcalis provided the perfect platform for an early move from the general classification contenders, yet nothing eventuated in the first half, the break ahead appearing to neutralise any moves. After a long truce, Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans was first to attack but only succeeded in dragging 20 others with him. Evans' Belgian teammate Jurgen Van Den Broeck was the next to go, but he generated the same result.

However, when Contador went inside two kilometres to go, his acceleration could not be matched. As the Spanish Tour champion of 2007 took no prisoners - his arrival 3:26 after Feillu and exactly three minutes behind Nocentini - it saw him just six seconds shy of the race lead by the day's end. The maillot jaune was awarded to the 31-year-old Italian from Montevarchi by the barest of margins. "In the last five to six kilometres, we still had five minutes," said Nocentini, "that's when I though it would be possible to take the jersey."

Nevertheless, Contador, whose familiar victory salute is the smoking gun, has fired a warning shot.

On the highest road in Andorra, the 26-year-old Spaniard was 21 seconds quicker than Evans, last year's Tour runner-up, and leading an 11-man group that included Saxo Bank's Andy and Frank Schleck, Astana's Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, defending Tour champion Carlos Sastre (Cervelo TestTeam) and Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Slipstream). "I wanted to take advantage of this stage but it was hard with the headwind," Contador said. "I would have liked to get more time on them but I'm happy."

Said Astana director sportif John Bruyneel, "The stage decided who was the strongest. This morning, we didn't give any specific instructions. I just told them [Contador and Armstrong] to talk to each other, and do what they have to do. Alberto was strong; he is a great climber and there are three summit finishes at this Tour. So this was one of his possibilities today."

Any word on Astana leadership?

With the positions of Contador and Armstrong reversed on the classement général, does that make the Spaniard the leader? "No," Contador said, "the race will decide who of us is best."

"That wasn't really to the plan," Armstrong said of Contador's attack that almost earned him the maillot jaune, "but I didn't expect him to go by the plan, so no surprise. It was windy, so it was hard to be alone in the wind. The wind wasn't conducive, you saw a big group there; [there will be] plenty of days at end of this Tour when there are only a couple of guys together."

Armstrong is now eight seconds off the race lead, third overall; teammate Leipheimer is fourth at 39 seconds. The surprise is Garmin-Slipstream's Bradley Wiggins, who finished in the Evans group on Friday and moved up a place to fifth, 46 seconds in arrears. Rounding out the top-10 overall is Andréas Klöden (Astana), Tony Martin (Columbia-HTC), Vande Velde, Andy Schleck and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas).

"I'm really happy, I felt really good," said Vande Velde. "I definitely had to dig deep in the end, and there was quite a headwind. I think tomorrow is going to be hard again, so now it's a matter of recovering. I can't complain about my placing on the overall. I'm in the top ten, so that's all good."

Barcelona: Loads of Gaudi, but in no way gaudy

Not as long as the 252.5km stage from the 1997 Tour, the last occasion the climb of Andorra Arcalis was used was when a 23-year-old German prodigy by the name of Jan Ullrich smashed all and sundry en route to overall victory. The lengthiest stage of the 2009 Tour began in the Antoni Gaudi-inspired city of Barcelona, and with no non-starters from the day before, a field of 177 left Plaça Carlos Büigas at the earlier than usual start time of 10:50 a.m, which equates to early morning for the Barcalona locals.

After 34km, a front group of three - Egoi Martinez (Euskaltel Euskadi), José Ivan Gutierrez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Christophe Riblon (AG2r La Mondiale) - combined with a chasing sextet - Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Aleksandr Kuschynski (Liquigas), Christophe Kern (Cofidis), Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), Brice Feillu (Agritubel) and Johannes Fröhlinger (Milram) - to form a nine-strong break.

Double that distance later, our breakaway enjoyed their maximum advantage of 14:20. Over the only real obstacle before the summit finish to Arcalis, the Cat. 1 Col de Serra-Seca measuring 7.7km at 7.1 percent, they still held an 11:48 gap to the Astana-led peloton, AG2R La Mondiale's Riblon cresting the climb in first position.

A double-puncture by maillot jaune Cancellara saw him dive-bomb the descent of the Port del Comte (at km. 127), his extra weight a valued asset as he maniacally threw his bike through the bends, finding himself back in the peloton 55.5km from the finish, some 12 minutes behind the break.

The weather a far cry from Thursday's wet-and-wild Barcelonan adventure, the heat and distance began to take its toll on the lead group. To its credit, the nine still held a 6:33 lead by the start of the climb to Arcalis, 10.7km from the finish, where the peloton continued to be driven by Astana, whose best riders had motioned near its fore.

It was only approaching the five-kilometres to go banner that Feillu of Agritubel managed to leave his five remaining breakaway companions, the peloton five minutes in arrears where nothing was happening at all, apart from the expected exit of Cancellara. Two kilometres from home and with a half-minute lead, Feillu had it in the bag; behind, Silence-Lotto's Evans finally attacked with nothing gained, with only the devastating attack of Contador's managing to stick, which he held all the way to the finish.

For images of stage seven click here

Results

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#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel6:11:31
2Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne0:00:05
3Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram0:00:25
4Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale0:00:26
5Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:00:45
6Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:01:05
7Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step0:02:32
8José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:03:14
9Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana0:03:26
10Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto0:03:47
11Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 10 - Cell 2
12Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 11 - Cell 2
13Fränk Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo BankRow 12 - Cell 2
14Levi Leipheimer (USA) AstanaRow 13 - Cell 2
15Lance Armstrong (USA) AstanaRow 14 - Cell 2
16Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTCRow 15 - Cell 2
17Denis Menchov (Rus) RabobankRow 16 - Cell 2
18Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 17 - Cell 2
19Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Team KatushaRow 18 - Cell 2
20Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 19 - Cell 2
21Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas0:03:57
22Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas0:04:10
23Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Silence - LottoRow 22 - Cell 2
24Andreas Klöden (Ger) AstanaRow 23 - Cell 2
25Sandy Casar (Fra) Française des Jeux0:04:25
26Mikel Astarloza Chaurreau (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:04:31
27José Angel Gomez Marchante (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 26 - Cell 2
28Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La MondialeRow 27 - Cell 2
29Juan Manuel Garate Cepa (Spa) RabobankRow 28 - Cell 2
30Laurens ten Dam (Ned) RabobankRow 29 - Cell 2
31Peter Velits (Svk) Team MilramRow 30 - Cell 2
32Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 31 - Cell 2
33Maxime Monfort (Bel) Team Columbia - HTCRow 32 - Cell 2
34Kim Kirchen (Lux) Team Columbia - HTC0:04:39
35Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas0:04:48
36Alexandre Botcharov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 35 - Cell 2
37Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 36 - Cell 2
38David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 37 - Cell 2
39Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La MondialeRow 38 - Cell 2
40Amets Txurruka (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 39 - Cell 2
41Linus Gerdemann (Ger) Team MilramRow 40 - Cell 2
42Pierre Rolland (Fra) BBOX Bouygues TelecomRow 41 - Cell 2
43Rigoberto Uran (Col) Caisse d'Epargne0:05:14
44Christophe Moreau (Fra) Agritubel0:05:19
45Stéphane Goubert (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale0:06:09
46Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:06:12
47Haimar Zubeldia Aguirre (Spa) AstanaRow 46 - Cell 2
48Chris Anker Sørensen (Den) Team Saxo Bank0:06:14
49Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) AstanaRow 48 - Cell 2
50David Zabriskie (USA) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 49 - Cell 2
51Matthew Lloyd (Aus) Silence - LottoRow 50 - Cell 2
52Volodymir Gustov (Ukr) Cervelo Test Team0:06:54
53Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 52 - Cell 2
54Igor Anton Hernandez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:06:56
55Laurent Lefevre (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom0:07:09
56Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 55 - Cell 2
57Sylvain Calzati (Fra) AgritubelRow 56 - Cell 2
58Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step0:07:28
59Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa) Quick StepRow 58 - Cell 2
60Yury Trofimov (Rus) BBOX Bouygues TelecomRow 59 - Cell 2
61George Hincapie (USA) Team Columbia - HTCRow 60 - Cell 2
62Christian Knees (Ger) Team MilramRow 61 - Cell 2
63Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) Française des JeuxRow 62 - Cell 2
64Nicolas Vogondy (Fra) AgritubelRow 63 - Cell 2
65Simon Spilak (Slo) Lampre - NGC0:09:03
66Gustav Erik Larsson (Swe) Team Saxo Bank0:09:16
67Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Team Saxo BankRow 66 - Cell 2
68Martijn Maaskant (Ned) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 67 - Cell 2
69David Arroyo Duran (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:10:00
70Serguei Ivanov (Rus) Team Katusha0:10:21
71Marcus Fothen (Ger) Team MilramRow 70 - Cell 2
72Nicki Sörensen (Den) Team Saxo BankRow 71 - Cell 2
73Charles Wegelius (GBr) Silence - LottoRow 72 - Cell 2
74Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quick StepRow 73 - Cell 2
75Jérôme Coppel (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 74 - Cell 2
76Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre - NGC0:11:03
77Aleksandr Kuschynski (Blr) LiquigasRow 76 - Cell 2
78Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 77 - Cell 2
79José Luis Arrieta Lujambio (Spa) AG2R La Mondiale0:12:18
80Iñigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Cervelo Test TeamRow 79 - Cell 2
81Sébastien Minard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 80 - Cell 2
82Grischa Niermann (Ger) RabobankRow 81 - Cell 2
83Hubert Dupont (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 82 - Cell 2
84Geoffroy Lequatre (Fra) AgritubelRow 83 - Cell 2
85Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team Saxo BankRow 84 - Cell 2
86Jens Voigt (Ger) Team Saxo BankRow 85 - Cell 2
87Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Cervelo Test TeamRow 86 - Cell 2
88Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 87 - Cell 2
89Jérémy Roy (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 88 - Cell 2
90Sergio Miguel Moreira Paulinho (Por) AstanaRow 89 - Cell 2
91David Loosli (Swi) Lampre - NGC0:12:59
92Sebastian Lang (Ger) Silence - Lotto0:14:23
93Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi0:15:27
94Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Team Katusha0:17:55
95Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) RabobankRow 94 - Cell 2
96Joan Horrach Rippoll (Spa) Team KatushaRow 95 - Cell 2
97Maxime Bouet (Fra) AgritubelRow 96 - Cell 2
98Joost Posthuma (Ned) RabobankRow 97 - Cell 2
99Thierry Huppond (Fra) Skil-ShimanoRow 98 - Cell 2
100Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 99 - Cell 2
101Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 100 - Cell 2
102Lloyd Mondory (Fra) AG2R La MondialeRow 101 - Cell 2
103Thomas Voeckler (Fra) BBOX Bouygues Telecom0:17:59
104Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step0:20:18
105Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) Silence - Lotto0:22:25
106Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d'Epargne0:23:23
107Stef Clement (Ned) RabobankRow 106 - Cell 2
108Fumiyuki Beppu (Jpn) Skil-ShimanoRow 107 - Cell 2
109Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) BBOX Bouygues TelecomRow 108 - Cell 2
110Luis Pasamontes Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'EpargneRow 109 - Cell 2
111Koen de Kort (Ned) Skil-ShimanoRow 110 - Cell 2
112David Lelay (Fra) AgritubelRow 111 - Cell 2
113Peter Wrolich (Aut) Team MilramRow 112 - Cell 2
114Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil-ShimanoRow 113 - Cell 2
115Alexandre Pichot (Fra) BBOX Bouygues TelecomRow 114 - Cell 2
116Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por) Caisse d'EpargneRow 115 - Cell 2
117Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Team KatushaRow 116 - Cell 2
118Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Silence - LottoRow 117 - Cell 2
119Anthony Geslin (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 118 - Cell 2
120Alessandro Vanotti (Ita) LiquigasRow 119 - Cell 2
121Leonardo Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 120 - Cell 2
122Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra) Française des JeuxRow 121 - Cell 2
123Frederik Willems (Bel) LiquigasRow 122 - Cell 2
124Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas0:23:54
125Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne0:28:29
126Romain Feillu (Fra) AgritubelRow 125 - Cell 2
127Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Columbia - HTCRow 126 - Cell 2
128Bert Grabsch (Ger) Team Columbia - HTCRow 127 - Cell 2
129Fabio Sabatini (Ita) LiquigasRow 128 - Cell 2
130Sébastien Rosseler (Bel) Quick StepRow 129 - Cell 2
131Hayden Roulston (NZl) Cervelo Test TeamRow 130 - Cell 2
132Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team MilramRow 131 - Cell 2
133Staf Scheirlinckx (Bel) Silence - LottoRow 132 - Cell 2
134Steven de Jongh (Ned) Quick StepRow 133 - Cell 2
135Kenny Robert van Hummel (Ned) Skil-ShimanoRow 134 - Cell 2
136Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team Saxo BankRow 135 - Cell 2
137Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - HTCRow 136 - Cell 2
138Albert Timmer (Ned) Skil-ShimanoRow 137 - Cell 2
139Mark Renshaw (Aus) Team Columbia - HTCRow 138 - Cell 2
140Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Team KatushaRow 139 - Cell 2
141Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick StepRow 140 - Cell 2
142Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 141 - Cell 2
143William Bonnet (Fra) BBOX Bouygues TelecomRow 142 - Cell 2
144Nikolai Troussov (Rus) Team KatushaRow 143 - Cell 2
145Marco Bandiera (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 144 - Cell 2
146Michael Rogers (Aus) Team Columbia - HTCRow 145 - Cell 2
147Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 146 - Cell 2
148Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Team MilramRow 147 - Cell 2
149Koldo Fernandez De Larrea (Spa) Euskaltel - EuskadiRow 148 - Cell 2
150Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz) AstanaRow 149 - Cell 2
151Stéphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 150 - Cell 2
152Danny Pate (USA) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 151 - Cell 2
153Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Skil-ShimanoRow 152 - Cell 2
154Marcin Sapa (Pol) Lampre - NGCRow 153 - Cell 2
155Tyler Farrar (USA) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 154 - Cell 2
156Julian Dean (NZl) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 155 - Cell 2
157Brett Lancaster (Aus) Cervelo Test TeamRow 156 - Cell 2
158Grégory Rast (Swi) AstanaRow 157 - Cell 2
159Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) Française des JeuxRow 158 - Cell 2
160Brian Vandborg (Den) LiquigasRow 159 - Cell 2
161Daniele Righi (Ita) Lampre - NGCRow 160 - Cell 2
162Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team MilramRow 161 - Cell 2
163David Millar (GBr) Garmin - SlipstreamRow 162 - Cell 2
164Samuel Dumoulin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en LigneRow 163 - Cell 2
165Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) RabobankRow 164 - Cell 2
166Andreas Klier (Ger) Cervelo Test TeamRow 165 - Cell 2
167Amaël Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne