Result: BRITAIN’S CHRISTOPHER FROOME claimed his maiden Tour de France win, passing Cadel Evans within the final 100 metres to take today’s seventh stage from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles. Froome’s Sky team-mate Bradley Wiggins finished third and will wear the yellow jersey tomorrow.
Here’s how it happened: Battered and bruised at the end of a crash-filled opening week, Team Sky got their tactics spot on as the 2012 Tour moved into the mountains and ended the day with a stage win for Froome and the yellow jersey for Wiggins.
Retirements whittled the peloton down to 182 riders at the start of today’s 199km stage, and French rider Anthony Delaplace became casualty number 17 after he was forced to abandon with a broken wrist.
A seven-man breakaway hit the front early on in the stage, stringing out the chasing pack before the final punishing 6km climb to the finish line at La Planche des Belles Filles. Sky were ready to attack up that final ascent as Michael Rogers, Richie Porte and Froome paced Wiggins up the climb while the rest of the peloton struggled behind them.
Only Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali and Rein Taaramae could keep pace with the Wiggins-Froome double act, and although Evans looked to have taken the stage with a final spurt, Froome passed him out with 100 yards to go to claim his maiden Tour win.
The big winner: Bradley Wiggins. Defending champion Cadel Evans proved today just how dangerous he will be in the mountains this year and, on a day when a host of GC contenders lost ground again, Wiggins’ performance was crucial for time and for confidence. It’s nice to have the yellow jersey as well.
The big loser: Frank Schleck. His yellow jersey aspirations were already in tatters, and despite a solid showing to finish 12th today, losing another minute really won’t help matters.
Who’s wearing what jersey?
- Yellow (Overall): Bradley Wiggins
- Green (Points): Peter Sagan
- Polka-Dot (Mountains): Christopher Froome
- White (Young Rider): Rein Taaramae
What about the Irish? Nicolas Roche moved up to eighth in the General Classification standings, digging in with a gutsy performance up the final climb. Roche finished the stage in 11th place, 1:06 behind Froome. Hats off too to Daniel Martin who put in the kind of performance that may well encourage Garmin to cut him loose and attempt a stage win in the mountains. He crossed the line in 17th place which sees him jump up from 143rd to 86th in the GC standings.
So what happens tomorrow then? More fun in the mountains as the peloton travels the 157.5km from Belfort to Porrentruy on tomorrow’s eighth stage.