Tour de France news round-up: stage 7

Armstrong suffers; Evans avoids; Lloyd hopes; Cancellara loses; jerseys change

Armstrong suffers, and expects drama on stage eight

Lance Armstrong sent a warning to key teammate Andreas Klöden on the dangers of racing in the mountains of the Tour de France after a very hot and humid seventh stage on Saturday.

Armstrong finished the 165.5km ride over six small climbs from Tournus to here among a bunch which contained all the yellow jersey favourites at 1min 47sec behind stage winner and new race leader Sylvain Chavanel.

His RadioShack teammate Klöden, however, was among several riders for whom the conditions, added to the pace of the peloton, proved too much. Klöden, who is expected to be a key helper for Armstrong in the mountains as the American continues his bid for an eighth yellow jersey, was left trailing late in the race before eventually finishing four minutes down.

Armstrong admitted he had suffered too, and warned that keeping a close eye on water intake can not be neglected if they are to be successful this year.

"(I) suffered, I think everybody did. It was just so incredibly hot and humid," said Armstrong. "I think they (team) were good, Klodie had a bad day... but everybody else was good.

"I think everybody really paid for that. If you get just a little behind on hydration and nutrition -- maybe that's what happened -- then the nail and the hammer comes, and you're done."

On what was the first mountain test of this year's race, and ahead of a more difficult challenge on Sunday, the yellow jersey rivals were happy just to survive.

Quick Step all-rounder Chavanel raced to his second stage win and now holds a 1min 25sec lead on Australian Cadel Evans, the best placed contender in second overall for BMC.

Luxembourger Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank is fourth at 1:55, with reigning champion Alberto Contador of Astana sixth at 2:26 and Armstrong 14th at 3:16.

Armstrong admitted he is not a fan of the small climbs that featured on stage seven, but he expects a big shake up on Sunday when the peloton races over two category one monsters from Les Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz.

"Three to five percent (average gradient) is always very hard," he added.

"It's high speed, and it's hard to get away. And it's hard to sit on the wheel. Not my favourite.

"Nobody showed themselves, or tried anything. I think everybody would say it was harder than expected, primarily because of the temperature."

Armstrong expects the Col de la Ramaz, the third of five in total on Sunday and which is over 14.3km at a steeper average gradient of 6.8 percent, to do damage.

The peloton will then tackle Les Gets (3.9km) then the 13.6 km climb to Morzine.

"Tomorrow the key I think is Ramaz, which is before Morzine. It's very difficult and there's patches that are nine, ten percent (gradient)," he added.

"If we get temperatures like that people will be stuck on the road. There will be a selection tomorrow, it won't be like today."

Monday is a rest day, while Tuesday takes the peloton further into the Alps for another difficult stage beginning in Morzine and ending on the downhill finish at Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne.

Evans happy to avoid yellow jersey, for now

Cadel evans is sitting second overall:

Cadel Evans

Australian Cadel Evans admitted he was happy to sit just behind the race leader of the Tour de France after a first mountain test for the contenders here on Saturday.

Former two-time runner-up Evans began the seventh stage, a 165.5km ride from Tournus to here, just 39sec off the pace of overnight leader Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank.

But after a combination of unbearable humidity and the peloton's pace took its toll, Switzerland Cancellara tumbled down the standings to 58th overall at over 13 minutes adrift.

Evans is still in second place, but is now 1min 25sec behind new race leader Sylvain Chavanel after the Frenchman capped a superb attack with his second stage win of the race for Quick Step.

Evans' fellow yellow jersey challenger Andy Schleck is fourth at 1:55, with reigning champion Alberto Contador sixth at 2:26 and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong 14th at 3:16.

In theory, it is an ideal position for Evans, who is keen not to heap the pressure of having to defend the yellow jersey on his BMC team so early in the race.

"To take the jersey today would have put a lot of pressure on the guys, and there's a long way to go. But I think tomorrow will be much more of a real shake-up," said Evans after he finished in a bunch containing all the main contenders 1min 47sec behind Chavanel.

Like Evans, seven-time winner Lance Armstrong expects stage eight to host the first real skirmish.

The American said the Col de la Ramaz, the third of five in total on Sunday and which is over 14.3km at a steep average gradient of 6.8 percent, will play a key role.

"Tomorrow the key I think is Ramaz, which is before Morzine. It's very difficult and there's patches that are nine, ten percent (gradient)," he added.

"If we get temperatures like that people will be stuck on the road. There will be a selection tomorrow, it won't be like today."

The peloton will then tackle Les Gets (3.9km) then the 13.6 km climb to Morzine, where Evans believes there will be a new race leader.

However it might require a tricky calculation on the part of Evans' BMC team bosses to keep him out of the yellow jersey while limiting any time losses to rivals like Schleck, who has recently said he wants the yellow jersey.

"We wouldn't expected Chavanel to keep the jersey tomorrow (Sunday) but also, it's not easy going against the Schlecks and Contador and Armstrong as well," added Evans.

"But having the yellow jersey now is a little bit of pressure to have early in the race. It's a good position to be in at the moment."

Like many of the peloton, Evans admitted he suffered in the hot and humid conditions.

"A bit hot today. It's funny, we've been on the flat for so long then we get to the climbs, it takes a bit of getting used to but everyone's in the same boat," he said.

Monday is a rest day, while Tuesday takes the peloton further into the Alps for another difficult stage beginning in Morzine and ending on the downhill finish at Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne.

The third and final week features four tough days in the Pyrenees which will be followed by a long time trial on the penultimate stage.

Lloyd promises more attacks despite Tour duties

Australian climbing specialist Matthew Lloyd admits the freedom he once enjoyed before a recent stage win at the Giro d'Italia will reduce his chances at this year's Tour de France. But that won't stop the Omega Pharma rider from trying his luck over the next couple of stages in the French Alps.

Lloyd was one of a handful of riders who counter-attacked a leading group late Saturday in the 165.5km stage from Tournus to Les Rousses ski station.

Despite his efforts, Lloyd eventually resigned himself to being caught by the peloton after it became clear that Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel would go on to claim the stage win.

Lloyd eventually sat up, saving his energy for the coming days and trailed in 12:59 behind Chavanel, the new race leader.

The Australian admitted it was hard to be given the green light to leave the main peloton anyway, but said that being caught won't stop him from trying again.

"I'm always trying to do different things but the French guys are pretty strong at the moment," Lloyd told AFP at the end of the stage.

"At the start they didn't really want to let me go and that's obvious because you can't be winning stages at the Giro and rock up at the Tour de France (expecting to be allowed to win).

"But that's understandable. I'm cool with that...there's always tomorrow."

After the hot and humid seventh stage over a total of six climbs failed to tempt the yellow jersey contenders into battle, Sunday's eighth stage which features two difficult category one climbs promises to be a thriller.

Chavanel now holds a 1min 25sec lead on Australian Cadel Evans, in second place, with fellow yellow jersey challenger Andy Schleck fourth at 1:55, reigning champion Alberto Contador sixth at 2:26 and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong 14th at 3:16.

Lloyd, a former teammate of Evans's when the pair raced for Silence-Lotto, believes it could become another damp squib that could allow him to attack again.

"I think tomorrow is going to be similar," he added.

"But on the other hand for me it's good -- it's another day to get a bit more creative."

He is supposed to be working to help Omega Pharma's overall contender Jurgen Van den Broeck score a top ten place.

But the Aussie says there is still room for his own ambitions.

"In reality there's only so much you can do to try and get victories and do things like that, but it's in these days that you've got to try," he said.

Two-time runner-up Evans meanwhile looks strong so far. Despite finishing 30th overall last year he is brimming with confidence after winning the world title last September and finishing top five in both the Tour of Spain, in 2009, and this year's Tour of Italy.

Evans is doing his best to limit his losses to his rivals while trying to avoid the burden of having to defend the yellow jersey.

And Lloyd believes that after narrowly missing out on overall victory in both 2007 and 2008, his former teammate could have the edge.

"He (Evans) looks really good, he seems quite happy with his new team and they're all working hard for him, which is good," he said. "So hopefully he has a good race, he's looking really strong and it will be interesting to see.

"Winning the worlds last year and having continual success has given has been great for him.

"He's definitely like most leaders in that the more confidence they get over the years the more flexible they become."

First climbs take yellow jersey toll on Cancellara

Fabian cancellara bade farewell to the yellow jersey in stage 7:

Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara failed to live up to expectations when he surrendered the Tour de France yellow jersey on the first day in the mountains Saturday.

Cancellara, the Olympic time-trial champion who races for Saxo Bank, was expected to match the pace on the race's seventh stage - which featured six climbs but none that were either too steep or too long.

But on what was a hot and humid day in the Jura made worse by a punishing pace set, principally, by the Bbox team, Cancellara was left finishing the stage over 14 minutes adrift of stage winner and new race leader Sylvain Chavanel.

Although not a long-term race contender he was hoping to keep the coveted tunic in order to celebrate having spent 21 days in the yellow jersey.

"I was on the limit," said Cancellara. "It was hot, really hot. For me, it was just too much. I just couldn't do any more."

Cancellara finished among a group of riders that were timed at 14:12 behind Chavanel and is now 58th overall at 13:11 behind the French rider.

But the Swiss, who first pulled on the yellow jersey after his prologue win, losing it the next day to Chavanel and taking it back after stage three, said he had enjoyed every minute.

"I've had some great days in the yellow jersey. Tomorrow I'll be back in my normal jersey. Things will be a bit more calm, and less stressful."

First mountain stage sees jersey exchanges

Andy schleck, new best young rider:

Andy Schleck, best young rider

Tour de France contender Andy Schleck dispossessed Welshman Geraint Thomas of the race's white jersey on Saturday as the race headed into the mountains.

Team Sky's Thomas began the 165.5km seventh stage from Tournus to Les Rousses ski station in the Jura with a 49sec lead on Schleck and only 23sec off the pace of overnight leader Fabian Cancellara.

It was believed Thomas might give his team a boost by racing into the yellow jersey but instead he had to hand over the white jersey, for the best placed rider aged 25 or under, after finishing a massive 5:18 behind stage winner Sylvain Chavanel of France.

In the best young rider's classification Thomas is now sixth with a 2:42 deficit to Schleck, who now has a lead of 1:15 on second placed Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas) of the Czech Republic.

Schleck admitted the stage was tougher than he'd expected.

"I did not reconnoitre this stage and I was surprised at how difficult it was, plus it was very hot," said the 24-year-old, the winner of the white jersey in 2009 when he finished runner-up to his main rival, Alberto Contador of Spain.

"I'm a bit disappointed with myself. On the last climb Contador's team (Astana) started racing hard at the front, too hard if you ask me because as a result no one wanted to help them afterwards.

"But I'm happy to have the white jersey, I had hoped to get it in the coming days but I'm really targeting another colour (of jersey).

"Now it's up to me, but overall I feel pretty good."

Chavanel meanwhile reclaimed the race leader's yellow jersey from Cancellara after the Swiss Olympic time trial champion finished a massive 14:12 in his wake and close to 12 minutes behind all the yellow jersey contenders.

His sports director at Quick Step, Wilfried Peeters, expects Chavanel to lose the lead on the tough eighth stage in the Alps.

"I think he will lose it tomorrow," said the Belgian.

The green jersey being worn by Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) will stay on the Norwegian's shoulder for a while longer after his four-point lead on Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) remained unchallenged.

Chavanel's teammate at Quick Step, Jerome Pineau, meanwhile tightened his grip on the best climber's polka dot jersey after he joined an early breakaway and took top points by cresting the first five of the stage's six climbs in first position.

He now has a total of 44 points and an 18-point lead on Chavanel.

© AFP 2010

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