Live coverage of stage 7 of the Tour de Frace, 162.5 kilometres from L'Isle-Jourdain to La de Payolle.
The bluff and counter bluff of the Tour de France's opening exchanges gives way to the arid truth of the high mountains as the peloton faces into three defining - if not necessarily decisive - days in the Pyrenees, starting with today's leg over the Col d'Aspin to Lac de Payolle. The concluding 7-kilometre descent should temper some of the Aspin's sting, though not all. Certainly, ASO will have designed the route expressly hoping that, unlike in 2013 or 2015, the first high mountain in the Pyrenees won't all but end the race as a contest.
The peloton is assembling at the start in L'Isle-Jourdain. Roll out is at 13.10 local time, with the offical start due five minutes later, at 13.15. After travelling the relatively flat roads that straddle the departments of Gets and Haute Garonne, the terrain becomes increasingly rugged later in the day. The category 4 Cote de Capvern, with 45 kilometres remaining, signals the beginning of real hostilities. There is sure to be a fearsome pace in the peloton from there to the base of the Col d'Aspin. 12 kilometres in length, at an average gradient of 6.5%, the 1490m-high pass should provide the first major selection of this Tour de France.
Despite his hefty 5:11 lead on GC, Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) sets out expecting to lose his maillot jaune this afternoon, though less talented riders than the Belgian have defended narrower leads on tougher Pyrenean stages than this one over the years. The upper reaches of the general classification look like this:
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 30:18:38
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:05:11
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:05:13
4 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:05:15
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:05:17
6 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin
7 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac
9 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team
10 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step
11 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team
12 Wilco Kelderman (Ned) Team LottoNl-Jumbo
13 Adam Yates (GBr) Orica-BikeExchange
14 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
15 Sergio Henao (Col) Team Sky
16 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Trek-Segafredo
17 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Team Katusha 0:05:26
18 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Tinkoff Team 0:05:28
19 Louis Meintjes (RSA) Lampre - Merida
20 Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ
21 Sébastien Reichenbach (Swi) FDJ 0:05:29
22 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:05:57
23 Mathias Frank (Swi) IAM Cycling 0:06:09
24 Serge Pauwels (Bel) Dimension Data 0:06:31
25 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff Team 0:06:39
Remarkably, all 198 starters of this Tour remain in the race as it sets out on the first mountain stage. This is the first time in Tour history that not a single rider has abandoned by this juncture.
The peloton is pedalling beneath bright sunshine as it makes its way through the neutralised zone ahead of kilometre zero.
162km remaining from 162km
The flag drops and stage 7 of the Tour is underway. A feature of this race so far has been the tendency for the break of the day to go clear early and without enormous resistance - no hour-long running battles at 55kph in a desperate bid to snap the elastic - and it will be interesting to see if that trend continues this afternoon.
A dozen riders slip up the road in the opening two kilometres, including green jersey Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff). The day's intermediate sprint, incidentally, is at Sarrancolin, just 27 kilometres from the finish and only eight from the base of the Col d'Aspin.
158km remaining from 162km
Sagan and Cavendish are joined in front by former world champion Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale-Drapac), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Nicolas Edet, Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept).
154km remaining from 162km
Etixx-QuickStep lead at the head of the peloton but the break's advantage is not coming down just yet. The gap stands at 30 seconds.
148km remaining from 162km
It's been a rapid start to proceedings on the first Pyrenean leg, with Lotto Soudal now taking up the reins of pursuit in the main peloton as the break's lead nudges out to 40 seconds.
It's interesting to see that Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) all have teammates in this early escape. Chris Froome, by contrast, is surrounded by the entirety of his Sky team in the main peloton.
140km remaining from 162km
Etixx-QuickStep take up the reins once again, but the twelve apostles in front are cooperating well, and their advantage continues to oscillate between 35 and 40 seconds.
It's been a rapid start to proceedings this afternoon and we can expect an equally fast finish on the quick descent off the Col d'Aspin, as Warren Barguil explains here.
135km remaining from 162km
The only thing not moving very quickly indeed right now is the gap between the break and the peloton, which remains at 30 seconds.
Greg Van Avermaet's BMC team have been absent from the front of the peloton thus far and with good reason - the highest placed rider in the break is Jarlinson Pantano, but the Colombian is some 13:22 off Van Avermaet's maillot jaune.
126km remaining from 162km
After an leg-stinging start to the day's action, our twelve escapees maintain a lead of 35 seconds over a peloton led by Julian Alaphilippe's Etixx-QuickStep team and Lotto Soudal.
This is, of course, the first - and, on paper, most benign - installment of a troika of tough stages in the Pyrenees. The race dips a toe into the Circle of Death this afternoon on the Col d'Aspin, before tackling the Tourmalet and Peyresourde en route to Luchon tomorrow. A demanding leg to Andorra Arcalis follows on Sunday, and Stephen Farrand previews the long weekend of action here.
122km remaining from 162km
The peloton draws in a little closer to our group escapees. The gap drops back below half a minute for the first time, and now stands at 23 seconds.
120km remaining from 162km
Cavendish and Sagan sit up from the break,but Etixx-QuickStep and Lotto Soudal don't seem to have called off the hounds behind.
The gap drops to within 20 seconds and the break is beginning to fragment.
Suddenly the peloton is upon the break. Roy, Benedetti and Navardauskas are not be deterred, however, and they forge on ahead, while Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) bridges across to them.
119km remaining from 162km
Those four escapees are swept up and the peloton is all back together. It's been a fiercely-contested opening hour of racing, and this high pace could well extract a toll on the Col d'Aspin.
The question now, of course, is whether there'll be a period of respite, or if another group of willing attackers will take up the reins once again.
113km remaining from 162km
And with that, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) is among a raiding party of 9 riders that accelerates off the front of the peloton. After the - relatively - sedate fare of yesterday, this has been a brutal beginning to the day and they haven't even begun climbing.
110km remaining from 162km
The Cancellara group swells to 20 riders or so, and it's proving a bit unwieldy to organise. Attack upon attack flies off the front of the this group, but the peloton is not far behind. It could all come back together unless they can hammer out a working alliance in front.
109km remaining from 162km
A break of 22 riders has gone clear at the front of the peloton, and maillot jaune Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) is among their number, along with Cancellara, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep).
107km remaining from 162km
This large yellow jersey group has built up a lead of 1:41 over the peloton, which is being led by Team Sky. There's a lot of firepower in this group of escapees, and as the race settles down, they'll fancy their chances of staying clear until the Aspin.
And it really is quite remarkable that a yellow jersey who already leads the second-placed rider by more than five minutes has now been permitted to join a large break and build up a lead of two minutes over the peloton. Van Avermaet is now more than 7 minutes ahead of Alaphilippe on the road...
103km remaining from 162km
We have 29 riders in this large breakaway group, and their lead over the peloton has stretched out to beyond three minutes: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Alexis Vuillermoz, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Luis Mate (Cofidis), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Daryl Impey (Orica-Bike Exchange), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Matti Breschel (Tinkoff), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Cesare Benedetti, Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Antoine Duschesne (Direct Energie), Borut Bozic (Cofidis), Alex Howes, Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar).
99km remaining from 162km
The break has settled into something of a working pattern and its lead has begun to stretch out accordingly. The gap is now 4:20 over the peloton.
94km remaining from 162km
FDJ are one of the few teams not represented in this escape, and Arthur Vichot duly hits the front of the peloton, though without any particular urgency. The gap is now just shy of five minutes.
After the serene blue skies at the start, clouds are gathering over the break, and thunder showers are forecast by the time they hit the Col d'Aspin later in the afternoon.
91km remaining from 162km
The race covered a searing 49.4 kilometres in the first hour, incidentally, hence the general willingness in the peloton to allow this 29-man breakaway sally clear up the road. The gap now stands at 5:10.
Chris Froome and Sky all but decided the 2013 and 2015 Tours on the first day in the Pyrenees, but the defending champion has suggested that the weekend's two mammoth mountain stages would be more important this time out. “We have to keep in mind that tomorrow and Sunday are going to be very selective days,” Froome said at the start. “The descent of the Col d’Aspin is pretty straightforward from what I can see. But it sounds like there’s going to be rain in the final, which will always make it more nervous.
Ian Stannard sets the tempo in the main peloton for Team Sky, which trails the break by 5:35. Quintana's Movistar guard maintain a watching brief near the front.
87km remaining from 162km
It remains to be seen just how long the unity will last in this 29-man leading group, which is already beginning to splinter. Van Avermaet tracks one attack, and now Cancellara has powered off the front on a downhill section with Mate for company.
The road flattens out and Cancellara puts his hand to his radio earpiece. Luca Guercilena and Dirk Demol appear to have asked him to cool the jets. Cancellara sits up and the 29-rider group is reunited, now almost six minutes clear of the peloton.
Movistar have begun to collaborate with Sky at the head of the peloton, while BMC can afford to sit in the wheels around Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte. Van Avermaet's unconventional method of defending the yellow jersey is paying a dividend for his leaders here.
Today doesn’t look on paper to be the decisive Pyrenean stage but it’s the Tour so who knows what can happen,” Porte said with perhaps inadvertent foresight at the start. “I’ll sit tight on the Aspin and see.”
80km remaining from 162km
It's not remotely surprising to see Steve Cummings in this escape, and even before the start, the Briton had a feel for how this day might pan out. "I think it’ll be like two days ago so there’ll be a break," he told Eurosport. "And if there’s a good combination of riders, the break can go to the finish because the GC teams won’t look to control it." Their lead is now some 5:38.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), who began the day 14 minutes down in the general classification, is riding very smoothly in this break and though the Sicilian was dropped in the Massif Central on Wednesday, his pedalling didn't seem too laboured at the time. The climb of the Col d'Aspin and its sweeping descent ought to be to his liking.
77km remaining from 162km
Antoine Duschesne (Direct Energie) leads the break past Luby-Betmont. Sometimes a group this large can struggle to form a solid working alliance, but for now at least, the escapees seem to be on the same page. Their unity ought to hold at least until the category 4 Cote de Capvern in 30 kilometres' time.
Luke Rowe leads the long line of Sky riders at the head of the peloton, with Froome tucked in 7th position. A delegation from BMC is queued up behind him.
67km remaining from 162km
Movistar are also contributing to the pace-making at the head of the peloton, and their combined efforts have brought the break's lead down slightly. It now stands just beneath the five-minute mark.
Cannondale have three riders in this break - Alex Howes, Matti Breschel and Sebastian Langeveld - though the team's overriding objective in this race is a tilt at the general classification with Pierre Rolland. The Frenchman has enjoyed a flawless opening week and hits the foot of the Pyrenees in the same time as Froome and Quintana, 5:17 off the maillot jaune of Van Avermaet.
61km remaining from 162km
Van Avermaet, of course, carries a rather larger virtual buffer right now. Although the break's lead has been sliced back to 4:40, he is still almost ten minutes ahead of Alaphilippe on the road.
57km remaining from 162km
2012 under-23 word champion Alexey Lutsenko has been generous in his efforts at the head of the break in support of Vincenzo Nibali. As the escapees hit the feed zone at Tournay, their lead over the peloton stands at 4:45.
53km remaining from 162km
The break hits the base of the day's first classified climb, the category 4 Côte de Cavern, which goes up for 7.7 kilometres, albeit at the rather shallow average gradient of 3.1%. Their lead over the peloton stands at 4:48.
Even after this ascent, the road continues to rise more or less all the way to the base of the Col d'Aspin. The long false flat and heavy roads mean that we should see riders shelled off the back of the peloton even before the Aspin begins in earnest, particularly is Sky and Movistar ratchet up the pace on the run-in.
For now, Ian Stannard is content to set a steady tempo at the head of the peloton for Team Sky, and Movistar, BMC et al are happy to leave him to it.
50km remaining from 162km
The unity of the break has not been fractured by this first categorised climb, while Sky and Movistar continue to lead the peloton, with Ian Stannard particularly prominent. The gap drops to 4:15.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) sits buried deep within the peloton. As the truism goes, we probably won't find out who will win the Tour this afternoon - but we'll get a fair idea of whether Contador can't. Beset by crashes, the Spaniard has endured a trying opening week and he reaches the mountains already 1:22 behind Froome and Quintana. He really can't afford any further slip-ups and this is what he had to say ahead of today's stage.
46km remaining from 162km
Fabian Cancellara puts in a long turn on the head of the break on the Cote de Capvern. All of the 29 riders are still on board, but it feels as though some of the impetus has ebbed away from this group. Their gap, however, remains at 4:15.
45km remaining from 162km
Vincenzo Nibali attacks from the break just shy of the summit to snap up the lone king of the mountains point on offer. As well as preparing for the Olympics and lending the occasional hand to frenemy Fabio Aru, is Nibali planning an homage to Claudio Chiappucci on this Tour de France?
Nibali relents shortly after the summit and the break tackles the very brief descent that follows. The road will then rise gently from here until the base of the Col d'Aspin.
43km remaining from 162km
Nibali is looking to breathe some life into this break, mindful that their lead has dwindled to 3:33. The Sicilian drives on the front on the false flat that follows the climb, hopeful, perhaps, that he can bring a small group clear with him and lose some of the weight from this break.
42km remaining from 162km
After Nibali's injection of pace, however, it's Breschel, Duchesne and Navarro who forge clear of the break and open a small gap.
38km remaining from 162km
Duchesne, Navarro and Breschel open a lead of 15 seconds over their erstwhile companions, while the gap to the peloton has eased out again to four minutes, as Movistar and Sky throttle back after the climb.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) has seen enough and takes matters in hand.The yellow jersey accelerates in a bid to bridge across to the three escapees. Howes is locked onto his wheel, while behind, the rest of this 29-man move is beginning to fragment.
Before Van Avermaet's move, Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) had already accelerated in pursuit of the three leaders, and the Briton impressively bridges across. With every passing day, his absence from the British Olympic team becomes all the more inexplicable.
35km remaining from 162km
Cummings, Navarro, Duchesne and Breschel aren't hanging around. This quartet has a lead of 20 seconds over the remains of the break, which appears to have split into multiple groups.
Vasil Kiryienka, incidentally, has sat up and is now among the Sky contingent leading the chase at the head of the peloton, where you sense some riders are already adopting the brace position. The pace will be ferocious on the approach to the Col d'Aspin.
30km remaining from 162km
Nibali and Simon Geschke have put in a mammoth effort to bridge across to the Van Avermaet group, which is the second group on the road. Now These eight riders are 22 seconds behind the four leaders.
28km remaining from 162km
The situation at the moment is as follows. Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) and Matti Breschel (Cannondale) lead the race, 24 seconds clear of the yellow jersey group, which is made up of Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange), Paul Martens (Team LottoNl-Jumbo), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). The rest of the break is 35 seconds back, while the peloton is 5 minutes down.
26km remaining from 162km
Senseing that the yellow jersey group is closing in on the leading four, Steve Cummings accelerates clear alone. Navarro sets off in pursuit.
25km remaining from 162km
This is breathless stuff... Cummings is alone in front, with Navarro in pursuit. Just behind, the yellow jersey group has caught up with Duschesne and Breshel.
23km remaining from 162km
Cummings led through the sprint at Sarrancolin, incidentally, while Navarro is joined by the yellow jersey group. A reminder of the make-up of this chasing group, which is just 25 seconds behind Cummings: Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Daniel Navarro (Cofidis), Matti Breschel (Cannondale), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie), Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange), Paul Martens (Team LottoNl-Jumbo), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana
21km remaining from 162km
Alexey Lutsenko is burying himself on the front of the yellow jersey group in support of Nibali, but Cummings' gap has stretched out to 35 seconds. The rest of the break - Cancellara et al - are almost a minute back, while the peloton trails by five minutes.
You get the distinct impression that Cummings wanted to begin the Col d'Aspin with a head start on Nibali, and the canny Briton is notoriously difficult to bring back once he establishes a lead.
19km remaining from 162km
Steve Cummings swings right onto the Col d'Aspin. 12 kilometres of climbing at an average gradient of 6.5% await him.
The yellow jersey group hits the base of the climb 32 seconds down on Cummings, and Nibali immediately hits the front and lays down a brisk tempo.
Howes, Impey, Van Avermaet and Navarro are the only riders who can follow Nibali's forcing on these lower slopes. Cummings' gap falls slightly to 27 seconds but the Briton is resisting.
Back in the main peloton, meanwhile, FDJ have begun to set the pace in support of Thibaut Pinot and the speed is skyrocketing.
16km remaining from 162km
Nibali casts a baleful gaze over his shoulder and seeks some help from the riders locked onto his rear wheel. Cummings has held on to most of his lead on the first two kilometres of climbing.
4:35 down the road, French champion Arthur Vichot leads the peloton onto the base of the Aspin and lays down a very brisk tempo.
16km remaining from 162km
Howes sits up from the yellow jersey group, unable to follow Nibali's tempo. Van Avermaet, Navarro and Impey remain locked to Nibali's wheel and Cumming's lead stay intact at 25 seconds.
15km remaining from 162km
Navarro comes through and takes a token turn, but these chasers still aren't making any inroads into Cummings' lead, much to Nibali's frustration.
Back in the main peloton, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) attacks alone and opens a small gap. Sky and Movistar seem happy to leave the pace-making to FDJ for now.
14km remaining from 162km
Nibali's forcing in the chasing group proves too much for Van Avermaet, who finally relents. The Belgian now faces a lone time trial to stay clear of the peloton and retain his yellow jersey, which he should manage relatively comfortably.
Barguil's attack fizzles out and he is pegged back by the FDJ-led peloton.
13km remaining from 162km
Out in front, meanwhile, Cummings has extended his lead to 36 seconds over Nibali, Navarro and Impey. Nibali seems increasingly peeved by the lack of collaboration in his chase group.
As the gradient bites, Van Avermaet continues alone, a minute down on Cummings. The main peloton is 4:23 back.
12km remaining from 162km
Five kilometres of climbing remain for Cummings and his lead has yawned out to 46 seconds. In those frantic final days of the Giro, Nibali's telling attacks came at around five kilometres from the summit - but he doesn't seem ready to repeat that kind of effort here.
There has been no real selection in the main peloton as yet. Froome, Quintana, Contador and all of the main contenders are safely aboard and the group is a sizable one.
11km remaining from 162km
Nibali climbs out of the summit and tries to add some urgency to the pursuit, but he continues to lose time to Cummings, who is betraying signs of suffering but showing no marks of weakness. His tempo remains steady and his lead stands firm.
11km remaining from 162km
Nibali isn't pedalling with the same facility of those final days of the Giro, and his deficit to Cummings stretches out to 54 seconds. Impey and Navarro remain on his wheel.
Navarro comes through and does a turn on the front of the chasing group. The road straightens out on these upper reaches of the Aspin, and they can see Cummings in front of him, but the gap is just shy of a minute.
The peloton remains 4:33 down on Cummings, and there seems a general air of detente among the contenders, though it's notable that Pinot is positioned at the rear of the group and appears quite laboured in his pedalling.
10km remaining from 162km
Cummings keeps turning his legs over. His face has tightened into a grimace but his pedalling remains very fluid and his lead is still 56 seconds.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) has been dropped by the large group of favourites and he looks to be in real trouble. As Irish footballer-cum-pundit Keith Andrews would put it, Pinot looks like he's been caught on the travelator in Gladiators. It will be difficult to recover from this.
9km remaining from 162km
Domenico Pozzovivo, meanwhile, has danced off the front of the main peloton, but the news stories are taking place up the road, where Cummings is soloing towards the summit of the Aspin, and further behind, where Pinot's Tour hopes have unravelled.
8km remaining from 162km
Cummings has 1:06 in hand on the Nibali group with 1500 metres of climbing to go. The plucky Van Avermaet, meanwhile, is only 2:16 and will certainly defend his maillot jaune tonight.
Navarro accelerates from the chasing group and Nibali tries to follow but then sits heavily into his saddle. The Sicilian has cracked, and is unable even to follow Daryl Impey's wheel as he bobs past.
7km remaining from 162km
500 metres of climbing left for Cummings and then a plunge to Lac de Payolle. Never give this man a lead...
7km remaining from 162km
Steve Cummings crosses the summit of the Col d'Aspin alone at the head of the race. Navarro and Impey will come over around a minute back.
Meanwhile, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) accelerates from the main peloton and zooms across to Pozzovivo.
A flagging Nibali crests the summit of the Col d'Aspin, all hopes of a stage win long gone even before he launches into the descent. A battling Van Avermaet is the fourth man across the top, and he knows that every pedal stroke is bringing him closer to another day in yellow.
Pozzovivo and Alaphilippe have been pegged back by the Sky-led peloton within sight of the summit, and the increase in pace has done for Warren Barguil, who has been distanced.
Dan Martin sprints away to take the mountains points at the front of the peloton, but they are four minutes down on Cummings, who has this stage win in the bag.
3km remaining from 162km
Cummings takes no risks on the descent, but his lead remains one minute over Navarro and Impey, while Nibali is almost two minutes back.
2km remaining from 162km
Impey leads Navarro down the descent but they are making no inroads into Cummings' advantage. The Briton is about to win his second Tour stage win in as many years.
1km remaining from 162km
Into the final kilometre for Cummings, who shakes his head in disbelief. The road kicks up slightly here, but he will barely feel the sting in his legs at this point.
It seems as though all of the podium contenders crested the top of the Aspin together, with the exception of the struggling Pinot and Barguil.
Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) wins stage 7 of the Tour de France at Lac de Payolle. Dimension Data have won four of the seven stages to date.
Daryl Impey (Orica-Bike Exchange) wins the sprint for second place ahead of Dani Navarro (Cofidis), 1:06 down on Cummings.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is still some way short of his best, and he has to settle for fourth on the stage, 2:13 down.
Dramatic scenes at the flamme rouge, meanwhile, as the inflatable air bridge collapses just as the peloton passes the kilometre to go marker. It's not clear if any riders were knocked off by that incident, but they were all held up and one imagines that the commissaires willhave to neutralise the final kilometre of racing.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) came home 3:05 down to retain the yellow jersey. Froome, Quintana et al came home 4:30 down, but we understand the times for GC today will be taken from the 3km to go point.
A dejected Pinot crosses the line more than seven minutes down and three minutes behind Froome et al. His time will be taken from the 3km to go point, of course, but by any measure, his hopes of overall victory have vanished. Had FDJ not set the tempo on the lower slopes of the Aspin, one would assume Pinot was suffering from illness. The FDJ team bus will be a major point of congregation for reporters at the finish line.
1 Stephen Cummings (GBr) Dimension Data 3:51:58
2 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-BikeExchange 0:01:05
3 Daniel Navarro (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:01:05
4 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:02:14
5 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:03:04
6 Luis Angel Mate (Spa) Cofidis, Solutions Credits 0:04:29
7 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky
8 Wouter Poels (Ned) Team Sky
9 Gorka Izaguirre (Spa) Movistar Team
10 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team
A replay of the flamme rouge incident, meanwhile, shows that Adam Yates (Orica-Bike Exchange) was the rider knocked off by the collapsing airbridge.
General classification after stage 7:
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 34:13:40
2 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:06:36
3 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:06:38
4 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Team Katusha 0:06:39
5 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:06:42
6 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team 0:06:42
7 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Alpecin 0:06:42
8 Pierre Rolland (Fra) Cannondale-Drapac 0:06:42
9 Daniel Martin (Irl) Etixx - Quick-Step 0:06:42
10 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana Pro Team 0:06:42
As he waits to mount the podium, Steve Cummings talks the world through his stage victory in the most matter of fact fashion. “I wasn’t confident in that group with Navarro and Nibali, but Navarro went off the front, I said it was great, because he would cook himself before the climb. I said I’d go in front with Navarro and then put pressure on them to chase behind,” Cummings says. “But I thought I might cook myself actually. I was riding on the flat quite a lot and Nibali had a teammate so he might have had an easier ride to the climb. But the climb was 5 or 6 percent and that’s good for my characteristics. And when you’re on the limit and in a chase you never trust anyone except your own teammates – and sometimes not even them. So I just carried on, as you do.”
Adam Yates' bike ended up on top of the deflated flamme rouge banner, and the Briton crossed the finish line with a cut to his chin. We'll have a further update on Yates' injuries in due course.
While many fancied Van Avermaet to hold his yellow jersey this afternoon, not even he would dreamed that he might extend his lead. He explains that his presence in the break of the day was not premeditated. “It was a bit strange because they kept attacking early on so I wanted to take the pressure off my team and go in the break myself. I think it was the smart decision. They didn’t have to work today and we kept the jersey.”
While Quintana, Froome, Dan Martin and Fabio Aru remain locked on the same time, 6:42 down on Van Avermaet, Pinot's disastrous afternoon sees him slip to 26th overall, 9:39 off the lead and almost three minutes off where he ought to be at this juncture.
Warren Barguil, meanwhile, who attacked at the base of the Aspin and was then slightly distanced near the summit, managed to bridge back up on the descent, and he lies 7th overall this evening and he remains on the same time as Froome, Quintana et al.
Pinot has struggled in the heat before and that perhaps partly explained his travails this afternoon. Little wonder the Frenchman is so keen to test himself at the rather cooler Giro d'Italia, though it remains to be seen if sponsor FDJ will allow it... For now, his team have tweeted this picture and the message "Courage champion, better days will come."
Here's some more from Steve Cummings after the finish. His fellow adopted Tuscan Stephen Farrand will have the full story from the Dimension Data camp in due course. “Of all my victories, I think it's the best one," Cumming says. "The Tour is the Tour, it's special. I didn't need to win a stage this year. I had a different condition from last year as I started the Tour riding for Mark [Cavendish] who is such a winner and an inspiration. It's brilliant, it's fantastic."
Cummings has been in the business of managing leads since the last century, of course. All the way back in the spring of 1999, he won the Eddie Soens Handicap Race as a 17-year-old, the first junior winner in the history of the event. But Nibali and co really shouldn’t have needed to have been Cycling Weekly readers in the 1990s to realise that giving him a head start was a bad idea...
We understand that Michael Morkov (Katusha) has crossed the line inside the time limit, meaning that all 198 riders still remain in the Tour de France after seven stages. This is the first time in the history of the Tour that there have been no abandons or eliminations by this point.
Vincenzo Nibali won the combativity prize today for dragging Navarro and Impey almost all of the way up the Aspin in pursuit of Cummings, and he was magnanimous in his praise for the victor afterwards. "Cummings did well to anticipate our return. He told me after the race that he did it because he was scared of me. It wasn't easy to read this race," Nibali said, according to Letour.fr. "I made the right breakaway and I did quite well I think. I'm looking for my best shape and I hope to have fun during this Tour. I haven't stopped smiling even though I lost some time the other day. I know I can have a good Tour de France even after having won the Giro d'Italia. The first goal is to have a good final GC with Fabio Aru. He's in a great shape.”
Some remarkable statistics from the Tour de France's live data, provided by Dimension Data. Cummings averaged 22.1 kph on the Col d'Aspin, barely slower than the pace managed by the main peloton behind, who clocked 22.2kph. Nibali, by contrast, faded on the climb to average 21kph, while Van Avermaet - a classics man in unfamiliar terrain - managed 20kph.
Thibaut Pinot was direct when he spoke to the press outside the FDJ bus a short time ago. The Pyrenean nightmares of 2013 and 2015 have repeated themselves. “I simply didn't have the legs. There's no need to look for an excuse. That’s three times that I’ve come to the Pyrenees and lost ground. That's it,” he said. “It's a season that’s almost gone up in smoke. The Tour is the highlight of the season and now on the first mountain stage, the objective is dead. We'll see what happens tomorrow, but if it's like today, there won't be any surprise. After two kilometres of the Aspin I realized I was not at my best."
Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon on an intriguing day of racing at the Tour de France. A full report, results and pictures are available here, and all of the news and reaction from the first day in the Pyrenees will follow on Cyclingnews.
We now understand that the commissaires have corrected the results to reflect that Adam Yates was ahead of the peloton when he was struck by the falling banner at the 1km to go mark. That means that Yates will move up to second overall, 6:35 behind Greg Van Avermaet, and will wear the white jersey tomorrow instead of Julian Alaphilippe - who had already been presented with today's maillot blanc during the podium ceremonies.
ASO have still to release the full, corrected standings, but they have now confirmed that Yates will wear the white jersey tomorrow and has been elevated to second place overall, behind Van Avermaet.
Thanks for joining our live coverage this afternoon on an intriguing day of racing at the Tour de France. A full report, results and pictures are available here, and all of the news and reaction from the first day in the Pyrenees will follow on Cyclingnews.
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