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Tour de France 2012: Stage 7


Welcome to our live coverage of stage 7 from the 2012 Tour de France. With the race now a week old the general classification is set to start taking shape with the first real climbing test this afternoon.

Ten minutes to start time...

Today's 199km stage runs from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles in the Voges mountains. After a relatively gentle first half of the race, the riders will face two category three climbs before tackling the formidable final climb up to La Planche des Belles Filles - the first category one climb of this year's Tour.

198km remaining from 199km

RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara remained in yellow after yesterday's sixth stage. The Swiss has held the jersey for almost a week but his position is likely to be under threat this afternoon as the race heads into the mountains: tells us that there were 182 riders at the start today, or eight non-starters. They are: Amets Txurruka (EUS), Ryder Hesjedal (GRS), Robert Hunter (GRS), Hubert Dupont (ALM), Oscar Freire (KAT), Maarten Wynants (RAB), Imanol Erviti (MOV) and Jose Ivan Gutierrez (MOV).

Ten of the 22 teams in the Tour are now at least one man short. Garmin-Sharp and Movistar have both lost three riders, while Euskaltel and Rabobank are both two men down.

191km remaining from 199km

At least Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank have retained their sense of humour amid all these crashes and injuries. According to Karsten Kroon, the music on the team bus this morning was "Stayin Alive" by the Bee Gees...

Looks like we have our first sustained breakaway of the stage. Just getting details now...

Gautier (EUC), Riblon (ALM), Sanchez (RAB), Sorensen (STB), Fofonov (AST), Martin Velits (OPQ) and Albasini (OGE) are the seven who have broken clear...

173km remaining from 199km

Luis Leon Sanchez is the biggest name in this breakaway. He's won three stages at the Tour in his career, including stage nine last year.

Meanwhile, Riblon was the winner of stage 14 in 2010.

Riblon is also the highest placed of these seven in the general classification. At the start of the day he lay in 55th place, just over five minutes behind Cancellara.

Sorensen is not far behind him in the GC, at 5:13...

Albasini has been in excellent form this season and will be hoping to make his mark here at the Tour. He already has three stage wins in 2012 and also won the overall title at the Volta a Catalunya.

160km remaining from 199km

Sanchez's team have been talking about their revised goals for the rest of the Tour following the disruption caused by all these crashes. Read exactly what they mean right here.

The average speed for the first hour today is 43.9km/h. That makes it the fastest start to any stage so far the 2012 Tour de France.

And the gap has stablised and even come down a bit. Wonder how long that will last...

ABANDONMENT: Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) has pulled out early in the stage. He hasn't recovered from his fractured wrist.

Gorgeous day here in northeastern France. Temperatures have now crept up to 25 degrees Celcius and the sun is shining.

145km remaining from 199km

Almost 60km in, the leaders have reached the picturesque village of Roville-aux-Chenes in the foothills of the Vosges mountains.

135km remaining from 199km

VIDEO: In case you missed yesterday's action, you can watch video highlights of it right here.

Average speed will certainly be considerably slower for the second hour. The leaders are currently clocking just under 38km/h as they ride towards the next landmark - the feeding station.

Hearing reports that Bradley Wiggins was almost decapitated by a camera after yesterday's stage. I must have missed this yesterday...

So Sagan is basing his celebrations on the films that his Liquigas team watch on the team bus. Forrest Gump, the Hulk, etc. Trying to think of the most difficult one to pull off on a bike...

I guess Free Willy would be pretty dangerous. And Four Weddings and a Funeral would take some real planning.

Let's focus on this final categorised climb for a moment. It's about 6km long and has gradients of up to 13%. So it's short and explosive - not, perhaps, particularly suited to pre-race favourites Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins, who are better suited to longer, more endurance-based ascents.

120km remaining from 199km

Susan thinks the Karate Kid or Saturday Night Fever would be good ones for Sagan's next piece of showboating...

Personally I'd pay a lot of money to see him and a couple of his teammates act out Priscilla, Queen of the Desert...

Feeding station is only a few kms away now...

We've just passed the 2-hour mark and the riders have completed 85km.

There's flood warnings back home in the UK. It's been the wettest June on record. This gorgeous weather here is making a lot of people very jealous.

110km remaining from 199km

With three categorised climbs coming up over the next three hours, let's take a look at the mountains classification:

Sanchez was in a similar position in a breakaway on stage nine of the Tour last year and managed to win. It's early days here but he has proven that he can win from these sorts of positions.

Kazakh rider Fofonov finished inside the top 20 at the 2008 Tour but tested positive for Heptaminol shortly afterwards.

100km remaining from 199km

As they continue to climb the riders are closing in on the day's intermediate sprint.

One rider who has been talking up the significance of today's final climb is Liquigas rider Vincenzo Nibali. We caught up with him yesterday and you can read what he had to say right here.

And we've reached the intermediate sprint...

The leaders are through it, and Gautier has taken the full 20 points.

Just waiting on the full results. Should have them in a minute

And Sagan cruises past Matthew Goss, treating him almost with contempt, to secure 8th position in the sprint ahead of the other chasers.


Going to leave you in the capable hands of Susan for a while now while I go and take a short break...

88km remaining from 199km

The lead group is approaching the first ranked climb of the day, the Col de Grosse Pierre. And are there lots of fans alongside the road!

Only two riders got points at this category three climb. Two points went to Sorensen, and one point to Sanchez.

Sanchez has dropped back slightly on the descent and must scurry to catch up. Let us not forget that he is still suffering from a broken bone in his right hand.

Tyler Farrar of Garmin continues to lag behind, but on the other hand, at least he is still in the race.

Sagan is now at the back of the field, but looks to be dropping back to the team car.

The peloton crossed the mountain top 4:43 behind the leaders.

Gorka Verdugo of Euskaltel has joined Farrar back amongst the team cars. We are actually surprised to see Verdugo in the race today. He was involved in yesterday's crash and said to have a gash in his leg so deep that the bone was visible.

The new bottle carrier for Sky is none other than World Champion Mark Cavendish. He is back at the team car loading up.

It is a long descent now, and the peloton is strung out single file.

The final climb won't be a surprise to the Sky riders. Team Principal Dave Brailsford told us that all of them have ridden it in training.

70km remaining from 199km

Pierre Roland was one of those involved in yesterday's crash, a hard blow for Europcar.

George HIncapie is the watercarrier for BMC Racing Team. This is the American's last Tour de France, as he will soon be retiring.

Mark is back, well-fed and ready to climb that final mountain.  Back to you, big guy!

Thanks Susan

BMC definitely pushing things at the front of the peloton. Evans has been quiet over the last few days, as expected. That could change today...

Check out @cyclingthealps preview of stage 7 from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles (1035m). Explore the route on a Google Map, with a Google Earth Tour or cycle it virtually! Watch profiles, Street View tours, detailed Google Earth tours and a lot more of each climb. Visit the cyclingthealps website right here.

60km remaining from 199km

Pace increasing here. Sky's turn at the front of the chasing pack.

They're not exactly hard to spot with those yellow helmets...

That was an extremely fast last 10km. We're now into the last 50km almost in a blink of an eye

There's a carnival atmosphere here along the roads this afternoon. Such infectious enthusiasm must breathe life into some tired muscles.

Sky must realise that Wiggins is vulnerable for the first time this afternoon. Any rider with designs on the GC must attack him on the mountain stages as the Briton appears to have such a large advantage in the time trials.

48km remaining from 199km

Sorensen leads Sanchez over the top of the second climb and takes the two points on offer.

Tyler Farrar and Johan Vansummeren have fallen off the back of the peloton. Not really a surprise considering their crashes over the last few days.  In fact, as you can read here, the Garmin-Sharp squad is probably more battered and bruised than any other. And as we discussed earlier, Hesjedal and Danielson are already out.

Vansummeren has almost made it back to the peloton. Farrar still struggling though. Has his spirit and body been broken by such a terrible run of bad luck?

Another crash victim, Gorka Verdugo, has also fallen off the back and is alongside Farrar.

Front seven working well together. Can't see them hanging onto their lead through to the end though. If anyone is going to attack from here you would think it will be Sanchez.

34km remaining from 199km

More on yesterday's massive crash. Europcar's Thomas Voeckler is blaming team radios. Read his full comments right here.

Gap is under three minutes now for the first time

Garmin-Sharp are certainly fighting hard. Zabriskie and Millar have both been on the front in the last few minutes. Millar pushing to reduce this gap, probably for Dan Martin.

Excitement building for this decisive final climb that's looming. It's never featured in the Tour before.

25km remaining from 199km

The riders have just passed through the small town of Melisey, which is the home town of FDJ's Thibaut Pinot.

With 20km to go the gap is now less than two minutes. It's looking like curtains for the seven breakaway riders.

Let's not forget that Lotto also have Jelle Vandendert. He could also be a big factor here.

The riders are ploughing uphill now. In a few kilometres there'll be a brief descent before the final category one climb until the finish line.

Lots of the sprinters are now falling off the pace

The breakaway has responded slightly. Gap is not coming down as rapidly. But there's still over 10km to go until the final climb starts.

Pack are biding their time here. One final breather, you suspect, before their assualt on the breakaway and then the final climb.

And up front, Fofonov turns up the pace and attacks.

12km remaining from 199km

Disaster for Van Den Broeck as he loses a wheel. Faces a struggle to get back in touch before the final climb in about 5km.

And the riders are freewheeling downhill now. They'll be at the foot of the final climb before we know it.

Four Sky men at the front now, with Wiggins tucked in behind out of trouble.

And wheel trouble at the back there for Valverde

And here we go - they're at the foot of the climb. Gentle introduction to it

Albasini and Sorensen are left in front

And Albasini gives way

Sky doing a great job for Wiggins as the climb gets steeper. But Evans is stalking them ominously. Michael Rogers leading Sky from the front.

Sorensen is swallowed up

Cancellara falling backwards. Looks like we might have a new yellow jersey holder at this rate...

Cancellara is rallying. Franck Schleck is struggling. Sky setting a suicidal pace. Can they keep it up?

3km remaining from 199km

Cancellara 45 seconds behind the leaders. Evans and Wiggins looking good to overtake him in the GC...

This leading eight are clinging on. Amazingly brave performance by Cancellara further down the road.

Menchov drops away

Froome leading Wiggins. They are in first and second. Last two kilometres.

Climb flattening out a bit here before brutal final 500m

Evans attacks

Froome going with him


Superb counter attack by Chris Froome there. Evans went for the line with less than 500m to go but the Sky man went with him and passed him for a win that was in the end more comfortable than it promised to be. The final climb was a formidable one with several big names unable to cope with it and falling away.

Great day for Sky then. Stage win and yellow jersey. Froome and Wiggins showing the form that they displayed in last year's Vuelta.

What was telling was the way Wiggins was able to comfortably stay with Evans at the finish, despite the last 500m suiting the Australian more on paper.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) was in fourth place. Brilliant performance by Rein Taaramäe (Cofidis) in fifth.

The sight of Froome pulling effortlessly away from Evans at the finish will live long in the memory. In most teams he'd be number one.



We'll have a full report, video reaction and highlights, pictures and results right here as we get them.

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