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93rd Tour de France - ProT

France, July 1-23, 2006

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Stage 7 - Saturday, July 8: Saint-Grégoire - Rennes ITT, 52 km

Complete live report

22:10 CEST   
The first moment of truth at the 2006 Tour is a 52 km time test from Saint-Grégoire to Rennes across the countryside of northeast Brittany. Mostly rolling with a flat finish, the TT should show the first signs of who can win the Tour this year.

T-Mobile's World TT champ Mick Rogers is looking for a stage win and the maillot jaune, but Phonak's Floyd Landis may have something to say about that. Leipheimer, Hincapie and other GC hopefuls are also looking for a good ride tomorrow, while CSC's Dave Zabriskie is another rider to watch for a stage win.

10:54 CEST   
Welcome back to the first big test for this year's GC riders at the Tour de France. The Cyclingnews blimp is hovering quietly over the town of Rennes, in Northwestern France. Today will see the riders taking on a perfectly flat 52 kilometres around the city, beginning in one of its suburbs - Saint-Grégoire.

The first rider, Sébastien Joly (Francaise Des Jeux) has left the start ramp at 10.48, followed by Anthony Charteau (Crédit Agricole) and Magnus Backstedt (Liquigas), the third-last on General Classification. Cofidis' Bradley Wiggins will be out there at 11.16, so we should have a first reference time approximately one hour later.

10:57 CEST   
The full start list can be viewed at our stage preview page.

11:02 CEST   
A word on the weather: It's about 20°, with scattered clouds hanging in the sky, but no rain predicted for today. Temperatures should go up to 24° in the afternoon, with a very light wind of about 10 km/h blowing from variable directions, but mostly from the South - it shouldn't be of much importance. Perfect conditions, I'd say!

11:08 CEST   
There are three intermediate time checks: at km 16,5, at km 36,5 and at km 46,5, which is almost at the finish. After 33 kilometres, the riders have a small feed and drink zone at their disposal in Saint-Gilles.

The last few kilometres take place in the city centre of Rennes, with three 90° curves to master. Accelerating once again out of these crossroads will be hard, if you haven't spent your energy carefully.

11:14 CEST   
One after the other, the riders roll onto the ramp, sign in and then are counted down, with photographers positioned halfway under the ramp to take the best shots. Unfortunately, a light drizzle is coming down now, which will make the roads a bit slippery. Let's hope it doesn't last.

Wiggins is there now - this should be a good stage for him.

11:18 CEST   
The first riders have reached the time check, with Backstedt leading at the moment. The Paris-Roubaix winner can use his raw power in TTs, too, but he won't be in the top placings later on.

11:25 CEST   
The last of the GC or TT favourites will be on the course at 16.24: Time Trial World Champion Michael Rogers (T-Mobile). We should know today's winner at about 17.30 CEST; until then, it will be an exciting showdown between those who have a chance of taking the Yellow jersey off Tom Boonen and those whose only ambition is to limit their losses before the mountains...

11:30 CEST   
Stuart O'Grady (Team CSC) has also started. Let's hope the Australian isn't too handicapped by his vertebrae fracture - at the moment, he's battling on, although unable to sprint.

The rain has stopped already, and the streets are drying. Now that's better.

11:33 CEST   
French champion Florent Brard (Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears) is also getting ready in the start area. He was part of yesterday's breakaway and will certainly not have a lot of energy left over today!

11:44 CEST   
As expected, Wiggins has topped Backstedt's time at the first ITC: with 21.10, he's 20 seconds faster than the Swede. Go, Brad!

11:52 CEST   
The first American to tackle the course today is Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto), who is at the ramp now. The climber is not much of a time triallist, but he will test his form in view of the mountains, where he will be 'domestique de luxe' for Cadel Evans.

Many of today's favourites actually are American. There are a few theories out there on why US citizens are such good time triallists - Dave Zabriskie (CSC) once said it's because Americans are used to train on their own much more than Europeans.

11:56 CEST   
The first riders that have started are expected at the finish now. Let's see what time Backstedt is capable of - he has just passed Joly in the last kilometres.

12:00 CEST   
1.05.58 - Backstedt has made a solid effort, while we have a new best at the first ITC: Victor Hugo Pena (Phonak) has raced 16.5 kms in 22.5 mins.

12:16 CEST   
Cyclingnews spoke to Mario Aerts (Davitamon-Lotto) before the start, who is not a time trial specialist and doesn't expect to finish in the top placings today. "I think the favourites and the winner will average about 52 km/h today," he said, "so I will just try to be within the time limit, at 42 km/h or so. I'll take it easy and try to lose as few energy as possible."

Aerts is getting ready to start now, while Rik Verbrugghe (Cofidis) is also on his way.

12:26 CEST   
Bradley Wiggins is delivering a good performance. He'll be in the finish soon, and judging from his intermediate times, he might beat Backstedt by over a minute.

And he does it! 1.04.53 is the new best, which adds up to an average speed of 48,1 km/h for the Brit. Good stuff!

12:29 CEST   
Not only Americans, but also British and Australian riders count amongst the favourites today. Now, why is it that all these English-speaking riders are such good time triallists? Any wacky theories out there?

12:38 CEST   
Interesting: 26 year-old Gustav Larsson has topped Pena's time in the first ITC by 19 seconds, and holding that at the second time check. That's pretty impressive! We'll watch out for the young talent later on.

40 year-old Vjatcheslav Ekimov (Discovery Channel) has also started now. He is a strong motor against the clock...

12:48 CEST   
Here in the blimp we're still having guesses at to what the winning time could be today. With not much wind, but a light breeze blowing mostly from the South - meaning a headwind for a third of the course, then a side wind to the finish - our best guess is 1:01:30 at the moment. We'll know in less that five hours...

12:51 CEST   
Our reader John Caskey has sent in his very own explanations on why English-speaking riders are amongst the favourites today.

He said : "1. Lots of English speakers are introduced to cycling through triathlon (until they see the light or discover they can't swim). 2. Also quite a few come out of MTB which is often as painful as TTs. 3. Its a minority sport, until recently, in most anglophone countries so you have to do the hard yards by yourself..." Sounds plausible.

12:53 CEST   
But at the moment, a Swede is leading this race: young Gustav Larsson has kept his advantage over Pena and has beaten him be 35 seconds! Good on him!

12:59 CEST   
Team Discovery Channel's Johan Bruyneel also had a quick word for us today at the start in Saint-Grégoire. "Our objective today is to keep as many of our co-leaders as possible in the top placings of GC," he revealed. "That will be the strength of our team in the race."

Although he didn't give any names, it seems to us that there are four riders in the American team who are suited to play a role in the overall classification later on: George Hincapie, Paolo Savoldelli, Yaroslav Popovych and José Azevedo. And Bruyneel probably wants to keep the yellow start numbers of "Best Team" for his riders, too.

Who will be the riders to lose time today, we asked him. "The pure climbers such as Iban Mayo will try to limit their losses," he said. "Mayo will lose about two and a half to three minutes on the other GC contenders, but there are still plenty of mountain stages to come..."

13:02 CEST   
Tobias, from Sweden, also suggested that "tradition is the major explanation for the Northern European riders (Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and perhaps German) and the Americans, and track abilities is the case for Australian and GB-riders. The lack of altitude in the Northern part of Europe make maximal power (the ability to go fast on flat and windy terrain) instead of relative power (climbing) the selecting mechanism."

Another Swedish reader, Kristian, fills us in on why Gustav Larsson did so well today: "Cycling is a minority sport in Sweden as well. And Gustav has a solid background from MTB."

13:09 CEST   
No changes to the top of the leader board for the time being, with the top five now:

1 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 1.03.17
2 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak 0.35
3 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Cofidis 1.36
4 Christopher Horner (USA) Davitamon-Lotto 2.40
5 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas 2.41

13:11 CEST   
Bert Grabsch (Phonak) goes through the first time check in 20'50, 14 seconds behind Larsson, who has set the benchmark at all points along the course.

13:19 CEST   
74 riders have left the confines of the starting house in Saint-Grégoire, which means we've got just under 100 riders to go. All riders are starting at two minute intervals today, even the top 20 on GC. It's been common in previous years to have the last riders go off at greater intervals. Maybe to keep the suspense up. But this TT is more egalitarian.

13:22 CEST   
Cyclingnews also intercepted CSC rider Jens Voigt in front of his team bus as he was getting ready to roll. The German told us, "I could do well today, take a maybe a top 10 placing - not top 5 though, as those spots are for my teammates Bobby Julich and Dave Zabriskie. But I think if I did that, it wouldn't matter; nobody would talk about it. So my plan is to spare my energy for tomorrow...the rest day! No, seriously, I'll just ride steady, but I won't give it everything. But I don't want to get kicked out of the race by Dave, either!"

Voigt is one of the next riders to roll down the ramp.

13:24 CEST   
Posthuma is having a good second half, coming through the 36.5 km and 46 km checks within 15 seconds of Larsson. Let's see if he can finish it off with the best time.

13:27 CEST   
Scott, from Australia, posits the following: "I think if we take a look at the early years for the Aussies especially, we see a solid track background. I was reading a 1998 issue today of a cycling mag and there was a feature on Michael Rogers and Luke Roberts when they were part of the 4km track pursuit team. The next page over featured Stuey's impressive TT abilities from his track background as well. Speaking of track backgrounds look at Bradley Wiggins' solid ride today. I wouldn't mind betting Ekimov does a good ride even at 40 years of age...and his track pedigree is remarkable...

Common thread? Track background = good ITT"

13:31 CEST   
Posthuma comes to the finish just 11 seconds behind Larsson. Close, but no cigarillo for the Dutch youngster.

13:33 CEST   
Scott from Michigan, USA, also offers his opinion, on why English-speaking members of the pro peloton seem to be better time-triallist: "They might appear to be good because they are such a small, relatively new minority in the peloton.

"I think it is a similar situation to when the race barrier in American baseball was slowly removed in the 1940s and 1950s. Nearly all of the African-American players allowed to play back then were stunningly good. The lingering racism allowed some black players into the major leagues, but they had to be very good to get there. If they were just average players, they were not wanted. The great majority of the line-ups, down to the bench-warming scrubs, remained white. So where it seemed that all black players were greats like Henry Aaron, Willie Mays, and Ernie Banks, that was because they really were great and their fellow ordinary players were not around to change the perception.

"Americans and other English-speakers are still newcomers in a pro peloton dominated by continental riders. If an American is going to try to succeed while working that hard in such a difficult sport while living a very long way from home in a country that speaks another language, he will need to be very good from the beginning. If he were just ordinary - a slow time-triallist and just a middle-of-the-pack climber - he would not be there.".

Which leads us to another question: how come there are no African and/or African-American riders in the European pro scene?

13:43 CEST   
Sebastian Lang (Gerolsteiner) has also started. The German time trial champion could make a brilliant performance today.

13:46 CEST   
Interesting point by John Picken in the UK: "Agree about the filter of US and N European riders. But also the track demands good pedalling ability and style as well as mental focus and concentration. Mastering those and the trick then is to convert to the road. That's where Bradley is missing, but there is still time and he will then be brilliant. Chris Boardman had the same problem. If only he had gone to Europe two years earlier. The Aussies do road much earlier in their career."

13:53 CEST   
French TT champion Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) is also on the ramp now. The race between the German and French champ is on! (Maybe that will make me get over the missed-out German-French football World Cup final...)

13:54 CEST   
Next up is Michael Rasmussen (Rabobank) - will he try to limit his losses in view of the GC or go only for the mountains jersey? Hopefully he has forgotten about last year's TT disaster...

14:01 CEST   
Sandy Broque in France added to the question why there aren't any African-American or African riders in the pro scene: "Why no Asians, no Arabs?"

Then perhaps the question is better put this way: Why is cycling a predominantly white sport?

14:02 CEST   
Whew - Lang gets into the first ITC just 4 seconds behind Larsson. This will be interesting!

14:07 CEST   

Michael MacMahon offers us his insights: "No African riders other than Robbie Hunter due to poor roads and no cycling infrastructure, except for South Africa with it’s European background.

"As for African Americans, it is the same as tennis and golf (exceptions being Williams sisters and Tiger). They are white dominated sports due to the exclusivity of clubs. Also there are mega bucks to be made in NFL (football), NBL (basketball) and MLB (baseball) all of which are now dominated by Blacks."

Doyin in NY says, "Cycling is an elitist sport/hobby (elitist can be read: "expensive"). So, for many black youngsters, it is simply not economically feasible to continue past the little trike and big box store bike that Jr. gets. It is exactly the same reason that golf hasn't had too many black players.

"Right or wrong, cycling may appear to be out of reach. There is no doubt that if blacks are given the same chances and are started in cycling at the same age, the results would be on par. On a purely societal level, cycling is just not seen as "cool" by many youngsters, especially many US blacks. Walking around in tights and funny tap shoes is only going to result in cackles from the boys. That, and the [lack of] coolness factor may be the biggest contributor to why there aren't too many blacks in the sport.

"We cannot also neglect the impact of the media. NBA, NFL & baseball stars are idolized... and paid accordingly (never mind the small percentage, but you don't see hardcore cyclists on MTV's Cribs). Cyclists, frankly, aren't paid enough to conjure [black] mass appeal."

14:13 CEST   
Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Fondital) is up next. He will have to exceed his limits to be counted amongst the overall contenders later on. And, we also need to see if he's back to his 2004 climbing style.

14:17 CEST   
Cyclingews' Anthony Tan and Brecht Decaluwé are now following Andriy Grivko (Milram) on the course and just passed under a "50 km to go" banner. The two will look out for further details of today's race, and say that wind is not an issue today.

14:19 CEST   
Chavanel leads the Franco-German champs duel! He's 3 secs ahead of Larsson and 7 secs ahead of Lang at the first ITC.

14:27 CEST   
Hmmm. Lang doesn't seem to be at his best today. He's lost 8 seconds to Larsson at the second ITC.

14:28 CEST   
Gene Hernriksen writes, "Some of the answer to why bicycling is predominately a white sport could be that there are not many people in poorer countries that can afford to give their children bicycles and the accessories associated with racing. Also in some countries, wearing biking shorts could get you killed, like the Iraqi coach and tennis players that were killed for wearing shorts and exposing their legs. To help resolve the bicycle shortage in Africa, there is an organization that collects bikes to send there and the bike shop I use, Conte's in Newport News, VA, USA, is donating a lot of older frames and components that have accumulated over the years to go to Africa."

Last year, Tour de France organiser ASO also collected thousands of bikes for Burkina Faso.

Bob also noted, "Not every black kid in America or Europe is poor. Millions of blacks are quite well off middle-class and upper middle-class families and they can afford bikes just like anyone else. I believe the reason is preference of sport - NFL, MBA, etc. and lack of a black cycling role model."

14:33 CEST   
Lang has passed CSC's Jens Voigt, who rides rather slowly. He said he didn't want to push it today, but that IS slow...

14:37 CEST   
Chavanel is under the 20 km mark. He's powering away, and we will soon get his second intermediate time.

Lang is in the finish, forcing the last bit of power out of him on that straight: 1.02.47 - a new best!

14:41 CEST   
Cyclingnews' Anthony Tan reports that a little wind is coming from Southwest, and the first part of the course is very up and down...

Ah - Chavanel started too fast, posted only seventh after 36.5 kms.

14:45 CEST   
Jens Voigt has finished, too, he is currently in the last position...

Rasmussen gets to the second time check and places 60th.

14:48 CEST   
Victor Ching offers us a different opinion on the question of the day. "I don't believe the race issue in cycling is exclusively based on lack of potential earnings and exclusivity/elitism. I think that clubs, especially in Europe where there is a good "farm" and "feeder" system in place for youngsters, are not trying to recruit enough blacks. There are sports like marathoning and track which are dominated by blacks in almost every country and the pay is in most cases less than a rouleur on a ProTour team... So money and fame aren't the only factors.

"The example I would like to quote is Shani Davis, the speed skater. He has crazy long legs and has the most aero tuck of any of his colleagues. The whole time I was watching the Olympics this year I was thinking of how fast he could be on a bike, I bet he could translate well into a prologue and eventually long time trials."

14:56 CEST   
In any case, the sun is out now, and we won't have any more rain. Chavanel is 3 kms from the finish, pushing hard and suffering. He was 7th also at the third check, so it's unlikely that we'll have anew best from him at the finish.

14:59 CEST   
Giuseppe Guerini (T-Mobile) finishes ninth at the moment, that's not so bad for a pure climber!

Chavanel comes in: seventh. He looks completely exhausted.

15:02 CEST   
Sandy Casar from La Francaise des Jeux is also racing now. The Frenchman finished a very respectable 7th at the Giro d'Italia this year, and would certainly like to perform in his home country too. His injuries from the crash a couple of days ago don't seem to hold him back anymore.

15:06 CEST   
Matthew Nelson from Lexington, KY, writes, "I met many black American cyclists while I was a bicycle messenger in a major U.S. city. Let me say this, "The brothers can ride." And, they even looked out for this stupid, honky, college boy on a summer adventure.

"But, most of the American black riders prefer sprinting I think -- a la Major Taylor and Nelson Vails. I think most black American cyclists view the Tour de France as freak show for masochistic euro-trash -- it brings to mind angst ridden, existential European films with subtitles." I can picture those, Matt! Thanks!

15:08 CEST   
Casar is 15 secs slower than Chavanel at the first ITC. That's not bad at all - if he can keep that up.

15:18 CEST   
Casar has lost 1.14 mins after 36 kms. He's not a specialist so that's no wonder.

Stefano Garzelli (Liquigas) has started, wearing his typical helmet with a feline air-brush on top of it.

15:22 CEST   
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) is 2.51 off the fastest time after 36 kms - he could lose a lot of time today! Remember: there are "only" three mountain finishes this year at the Tour, instead of four last year.

15:29 CEST   
Another opinion on the fact that there are barely any Black cyclists in the peloton: "To say the majority of Blacks aren't interested in cycling because it's not cool or because there aren't any role models is superficial. One of the reasons Blacks aren't interested is because of the lack of exposure and understanding of cycling as a sport. It's really a microcosm of the smaller issue of fewer Americans than Europeans in professional cycling. The majority of Americans really know of just the Tour de France. I'd go as far to say the same majority didn't realize America already had two major international, professional tours this year already (Tours of Georgia and California).

"When I became interested in cycling, my parents tried to discourage me from racing. My father's argument was, "There aren't any black cyclists." That was 20 years ago. Now married with 4 kids, my family, parents included, knows that cycling is my passion. I've met enough black cyclists besides myself to count on one finger. But it hasn't killed my passion. No popular black role models existed in golf and speed skating. Also, before Major Taylor, no popular black role models existed in cycling. So, for people like Tiger, Major, and Shani to succeed, why didn't they need a popular black role model? My answer would be that they don't need a role model of the same ethnicity. They had a passion for their sport and they invested enough of themselves to pursue it."

15:30 CEST   
Casar is at the finish now, and throws his bike over the line - he lost 2.23 mins to Sebastian Lang. That's not such a bad result.

15:36 CEST   
GC aspirant Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has started, as well as Gilberto Simoni (Saunier), while we have a new best at the first time check: Again, a Swede has posted an excellent time there, namely Thomas Lövkvist. He's six seconds faster than Chavanel was at the time.

But Sebastian Lang, who still leads the race until now, got better during the second part of the course. So it remains to be seen whether Lövkvist can keep it up.

Menchov has his elbows very low, his shoulders are lower than his back. What a difference to Mayo, for example!

15:37 CEST   
Here's a look at our intermediate times right now:

km 16.5
1 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 20.27
2 Mikel Astarloza (Spa) AG2R-Prevoyance 0.06
3 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis
4 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 0.09
5 José Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel 0.12
km 36.5
1 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 44.53
2 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.07
3 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.16
4 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak 0.23
5 Vjatcheslav Ekimov (Rus) Discovery Channel 0.43
km 46.3
1 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 56.20
2 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 0.16
3 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.29
4 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak 0.42
5 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak 1.07
Finish - km 52
1 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.02.47
2 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 0.30
3 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.41
4 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak 1.05
5 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Phonak 1.34

15:40 CEST   
Italian TT champ Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre) has taken on the course now. He should do well!

While Mayo is fighting against the pain in his body on the finish straight. He lost 4.32 to Lang - that could mean he'll lose as much as 5 minutes or so to some of the other GC contenders! Oops.

15:45 CEST   
Gerolsteiner's Levi Leipheimer is also on his way now. He will have benefited of his teammate Lang's impressions of the course. Looks like the American wants to take the same approach: start moderately, then put on the turbo in the second half.

Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel) is off, too! The race is on now, with the best to come in a few minutes.

15:48 CEST   
Nice ride by Axel Merckx: 1.59 behind in the second time check. Bobby Julich (CSC) is getting his count down on the ramp now. He looks focused. Off he goes!

15:51 CEST   
Leipheimer also has this very special TT skill of a very low position.

Crash! Bobby J slipped away in a curve. He's lying on the ground, but conscious an moving.

15:52 CEST   
He slips away and falls on his left side. He's holding his left arm, sitting by the roadside now. They're waiting for the race doctor.

15:53 CEST   
He's standing now, holding his hand. But he doesn't look like he'll be able to continue.

15:55 CEST   
And Menchov has the new best time at 16 kms: 20:07! But many riders have started fast...

Bobby J is getting into the ambulance. That's it for him, what a shame. All the best...

15:57 CEST   
Lövkvist, too, started out strong and then didn't have the strength left in the second part of the course to keep it up.

Zabriskie has started! He'll be thinking of his teammate, chasing down Andreas Klöden (T-Mobile)

16:03 CEST   
It's Millar time now. Let's see if he can make a difference today.

Leipheimer is 1.32 mins behind Menchov at the first time check! Now, maybe that's starting a little too slow...

16:06 CEST   
Andreas Klöden is pedalling 107 revs. That's pretty good, and certainly looks fast.

Cadel Evans (Davitamon) takes off now, starting strong!

16:11 CEST   
Popovych loses a little time on the best, but not too much: 26 seconds on Menchov after 16 kms.

Millar pedals great, his upper body not moving at all - that's pure TT style. Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile) is another specialist to depart now.

16:12 CEST   
Sastre, too, has started faster than he has been able to continue. He's lost more time in the second half of the race.

16:14 CEST   
Plenty of spectators out on the roads again today, who cheer the riders on. Gerolsteiner youngster Markus Fothen has just taken the best time off Denis Menchov at the first check, beating the Russian by 1 second!

16:17 CEST   
And there's yet another one better than Fothen: Klöden points at 19.59, seven seconds faster yet!

16:20 CEST   
Lövkvist admitted to Cyclingnews at the finish that "I started too fast in this race. In the end, I couldn't hold my pace. If the time trial would have had one more kilometre, I would have fallen off my bike. I think Lang an Larsson can really do well here."

16:22 CEST   
Landis, Savoldelli and Hincapie have left the ramp, while Michael Rogers (T-Mobile) is getting ready now. All the favourites will be on the course once he has started.

Cyclingnews also spoke to TT World Champion Rogers at the finish in Vitré yesterday. "I hope to do well tomorrow. I expect to have a good ride because I feel quite good. I'll do the best ride I can," he said.

Rogers has the best cards to make an attempt in grabbing the yellow jersey. "Certainly, there is a possibility of the yellow jersey but also, there are some other very good riders behind me like Hincapie, Landis, Evans, Millar - heaps of guys who can take the jersey as well. Because I'm second in GC doesn't mean I will take the jersey. I will have to ride very quick but I'm looking forward to it."

The length of the time trial suits the Australian rider perfectly, but at first sight, the course doesn't look that easy. "The first half is rather up and down. The second half is very fast, open, flat and I think that's good for me. Normally, no matter how the course is, you go well," Rogers concluded.

16:27 CEST   
The wind has apparently increased over the last hour, which could be one of the explanations why many riders have not been able to keep their pace when coming back to Rennes.

16:31 CEST   
Christophe Moreau has his tongue out as usual. (Will that make him faster? ;-))

We hear that Evans is 7th at 16km, 16 seconds off Klöden's pace. That's an OK result until now, while Leipheimer losing a lot of time today. It's clearly not his day, and that will put him back on GC compared to his rivals.

16:34 CEST   
Gonchar has clocked a new best after 16km, 23 seconds faster than his teammate Klöden! Now, if only they'd have had a team time trial this year at the Tour, Mr. Ludwig? And we haven't seen what Rogers is up to yet...

Christian Henn, directeur sportif at Gerolsteiner, confirms that Leipheimer has not had a mechanical problem. He doesn't know why Leipheimer's performance is so low today.

16:38 CEST   
Phonak's Landis clocks second at the first ITC, 17 seconds behind. He is efficient although his TT position is not everybody's cup of tea.

Fothen is at km 36: He's lost some time, too: 19 seconds. But he is definitely a huge talent, 25 years old, riding his first Tour de France.

16:40 CEST   
The top five at the finish:

1 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 1.02.47
2 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux 0.30
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 0.40
4 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank 0.41
5 Victor Hugo Pena (Col) Phonak 1.05

16:42 CEST   
Klöden loses 12 seconds on Menchov at km 36. In this race, it will all be about perseverance in the second part of the itinerary. Zabriskie arrives there in ninth position, not too good, either.

16:46 CEST   
Leipheimer is 4.15 mins down on the best time at the last time check. Hincapie is 52 seconds behind Gonchar after 16 kms! There goes our theory about American time triallists...

16:47 CEST   
Michael Rogers, too, is 13th at 46 seconds, and Millar 17th, at 56 seconds. What's going on??

16:50 CEST   
Leipheimer has lost 5.01 minutes in the finish. He stops pedalling even before the line, and seems extremely disappointed. This is clearly not his day...

Hincapie has passed Thor Hushovd (Crédit Agricole), who is trying to hold onto the American. Millar is through at 36 km at 46'27 for 27th.

16:52 CEST   
Evans is 34 seconds behind Menchov after 36 kilometres - that's pretty good!

16:53 CEST   
All riders are now through km 16. Boonen is 44th at 1'26.

16:55 CEST   
Gonchar is at the second ITC now, giving everything, and he has Matze Kessler in front of him to chase down. Gonchar rides a huge gear... 43'50 - 1'02 quicker than Menchov!

16:56 CEST   
Dave Zabriskie is 9th at 46 km, at 39 seconds.

Fothen has arrived in the finish, he's placed an excellent third with 37 seconds to Lang.

17:00 CEST   
Klöden arrives in the finish, 39 secs behind, fourth at the moment. Very good after his shoulder injury!

Landis hasn't lost too much time: 27 seconds at km 47.

Zabriskie finishes seventh at the moment, 52 seconds down. That's a (bad) surprise. If this goes on, Gonchar will be maillot jaune today!

17:03 CEST   
Gonchar is pushing an enormous gear, incredible. How can he hold that for so long? The 36 year-old is putting all his experience in this race.

17:06 CEST   
Kessler also profits from Gonchar's ride, as he can hang on to his teammate about 70 metres in front of him. Great ride!

Hincapie is at 36kms: 25th at 2'02...

17:08 CEST   
Millar comes into the finish: he lost 2.30 mins.

17:09 CEST   
Ha! And the sprinter's mind game continues as Boonen has passed McEwen! A little revenge, surely not worth a stage win...

17:10 CEST   
Rogers is 7th at 1'15 mins in the second time check. He's improved a little since km 16.

Evans gets into the finish, 45 seconds behind. That's pretty good!

17:13 CEST   
Gonchar gives is very last energy on the finish straight. Amazing time: 1.01.43! He beats Lang by 1.04! That'll surely get him the jersey. And he's not such a bad climber.

Boonen and McEwen ride alongside each other... That's funny.

17:16 CEST   
Moreau, at the finish, confirmed that the wind is blowing against the riders in the second part of the course, coming back into town.

Karpets finishes tenth, 1.51 mins behind Gonchar. Here comes Landis...

17:17 CEST   
Landis gets second, one minute behind the Russian. Well done, in comparison to other GC contenders!

17:20 CEST   
'Il Falco' is in the last kilometre, pedalling at 105 revs. He won't make the Top 10. Still, he limited his losses: 18th, 2.12 down on Gonchar.

17:20 CEST   
'Il Falco' is in the last kilometre, pedalling at 105 revs. He won't make the Top 10. Still, he limited his losses: 18th, 2.12 down on Gonchar.

17:26 CEST   
T-Mobile will have really good results today, with about 5 or 6 riders in the top 20. Rogers is improving: 4th at km 46, at 1.23 mins. He always finishes fast.

Discovery's best rider is Savoldelli, as Hincapie finishes 2.42 down, on 23rd position. The American team might lose their 1st placing in the "Best team" classification.

Rogers has just passed Hushovd. Flying by, literally!

17:28 CEST   
Rogers comes into the finish now - that was an amazing performance during the last 20 kilometres, taking six minutes from Hushovd! He places fourth, at 1.23 off his teammate Gonchar.

17:34 CEST   
Our calculations for GC: Gonchar will lead Landis by 1'00. Rogers will be 3rd at 1'08. That was a big shake-up of the overall classification, with some surprises. Leipheimer completely missed out on his performance today, and the Discovery boys weren't convincing, either.

And unfortunately, Bobby Julich had to quit the race after crashing in a curve.

17:34 CEST   
McEwen arrives 6.26 minutes down. The race is over, and Gonchar on the way to the podium...

17:39 CEST   
That's it for us in Rennes. Join us again for some Live Tour de France action tomorrow, over 177 kms from Saint-Méen-le-Grand to Lorient. This 8th stage across the rolling hills of central Brittany to the gritty seaport of Lorient will be a day when the big teams will likely let an early break get up the road, before boarding a charter flight to Bordeaux and rest day #1. Cya then!

<h4>Intermediate timing </h4>

km 16.5 (all riders through)
1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile            19.37
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                  0.17
3 Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile              0.22
4 Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner           0.29
5 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank               0.30
km 36.5 (all riders through)
1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile            43.50
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                  0.42
3 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank               1.03
4 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux        
5 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner          1.10
km 46.3
1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile            55.09
2 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak                  0.57
3 Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner          1.11
4 Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile              1.23
5 Gustav Larsson (Swe) Francaise Des Jeux    1.27
Finish - km 52
1 Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile          1.01.43
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 Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile              1.43
9 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank               1.44
10 Joost Posthuma (Ned) Rabobank             1.45

Provisional general classification after stage 7

1 Serguei Gonchar (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 Klöden (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) Team CSC            2.03

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