PIC BY TDWSPORT.COM
It was the day everyone had been waiting for after a relatively pedestrian opening week of the Tour - crisis excepted - and the stage seven individual time trial from Saint Gregoire to Rennes didn't disappoint.
Ukrainian Serhiy Honchar helped alleviate his T-Mobile team's woes following the expulsions of Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla the day before the start of the Tour with the team's second stage victory following Matthias Kessler's win on Tuesday. With it, Honchar took the yellow jersey, and now leads American Floyd Landis (Phonak) by a minute.
Landis punctured just before the first time check at 16.5km, but was quickly back in his 'praying mantis' position on a new TT bike. "We had to change the bike and concentrate again on picking up the tempo," said Phonak manager John Lelangue. "When we saw we were only 17 seconds behind Honchar, we regained confidence. Nothing is done yet. We have the Pyrenees, the Alps, and the next time trial still to come, but it's good to see things went well for us today."
The day's big losers - for very different reasons - were the Americans Bobby Julich and Levi Leipheimer.
Julich was pushing hard when, at a roundabout with just 1.5km covered, the American seemed to take the turn too fast, and his front wheel slipped from under him. The CSC rider hit the kerb of the roundabout, and, after taking quite a few minutes to get to his feet, was left in agony, holding his wrist. Minutes later, he was climbing into an ambulance, his Tour over for another year.
Leipheimer had started the day 48 seconds down on race leader Tom Boonen, but by the end of the day was 6-17 down on new leader Honchar, his dreams of Tour victory all but over after an abysmal time trial.
Otherwise, though, it was a good day for the German teams, with T-Mobile getting four of their riders in the top six overall. Despite losing Ullrich, T-Mobile find themselves in a strong position four days before the start of the Pyrenees. When, and if, Honchar faulters, they have Sinkewitz, Kloden, and perhaps even Rogers - if he finds his climber's legs - to count on.
"But I'm not thinking about anything other than tomorrow's stage," Honchar said. "I'm happy to have got the stage win, and getting the yellow jersey was an unexpected bonus.
"Around 10km from the finish, I was suffering a lot," the first-ever Ukrainian wearer of the yellow jersey revealed, "but I resisted it and continued pushing, and it worked out." T-Mobile may have lost Ullrich, but they have already saved their Tour.
Stage 7, Saint Gregoire-Rennes, individual time trial
1 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 52km in 1.01.43 (50.55kph)
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 1.01
3 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.04
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 1.24
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise des Jeux 1.34
6 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile 1.39
7 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.42
8 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile 1.43
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 1.44
10 Joost Posthuma (Hol) Rabobank 1.45
11 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 1.49
13 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 1.57
24 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel 2.42
28 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis 3.10
37 David Millar (GBr) Saunier Duval 3.34
96 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 6.06
Abandon - Bobby Julich (USA) CSC
1 Serhiy Honchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 30.23.20
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 1.00
3 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 1.08
4 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) T-Mobile 1.45
5 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.50
6 Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile
7 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 1.52
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 2.00
10 David Zabriskie (USA) CSC 2.03
Points: Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto
Mountains: Jerome Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom
Best young rider: Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner