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92nd Tour de France - GT

France, July 2-24, 2005

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Stage 7 - Friday, July 8: Lunéville - Karlsruhe, 228.5 km

Commentary by Jeff Jones and Roger Hughes, with additional reporting from Tim Maloney and Anthony Tan

Complete live report

Live coverage starts: 12:00 CEST
Estimated finish: 17:15 CEST

Stage 7 profile
Click for stage map

11:55 CEST   
Welcome to Cyclingnews for our live coverage of the seventh stage of the Tour de France. Today's stage takes us from Lunéville to Karlsruhe, in Germany, over an up and down 228.5 km parcours. It's going to be a long day in the saddle for the riders, who will already be drained by the 48 km/h average of the first week of racing, and maybe today a break will stay away.

Today's three intermediate sprints are at Rambervillers (km 32.5), Brumath (km 146.5), and Rastatt (km 197.5), while the two climbs on offer are the Col de la Chipotte (Cat. 4, km 45), and Col du Hantz (Cat. 3, km 74). The riders cross into Germany after 185 km.

It was raining at the start earlier today, but now it's merely overcast and cool, with temperatures in the upper teens. Rain is expected for most of the day, so it's not going to be a particularly enjoyable day for most.

12:02 CEST   
Today's stage starts with a 4.1 km neutral section before the flag drops at 12:08 for the official start.

12:09 CEST   
The flag drops to signal the start of stage 7 and they're away! 228 km to go.

12:24 CEST   
Yesterday's slippery finish is still being talked about, with a number of incidents happening in the final two kilometres. Firstly there was Alexandre Vinokourov's attack to chase down the lone Christophe Mengin, as the sprinters teams became disorganised in the run into Nancy. Vino's move was surprisingly marked by only one rider: Lorenzo Bernucci, who rode very well to completely miss Mengin's crash on the final corner and zip through to take the stage win.

Arguably, Vinokourov, who was hindered by Mengin, was the favourite for the win, which would have given him 20 bonus seconds over his main GC rivals. It's difficult to estimate whether the peloton would have caught Vino and Bernucci had it not crashed on the same corner, but given the gap and the rain, my money was on the three staying clear.

At the end of the day, Vino gained 19 seconds on Lance Armstrong, and although it might not mean a great deal in the grand scheme of things, every second counts...

12:26 CEST    14km/214km to go
An updated weather report from the boys and girl in the CN car: it's about 15 degrees at the moment but the skies are actually clearing as the weather front moves west. There's still a chance of some showers today. The wind has died down considerably and it's even sunny at the finish in Karlsruhe.

The attacks have been commenced by Rabobank, as usual.

12:27 CEST   
An update from Chris "Inside Discovery" Brewer: "All is well within the Discovery Channel team. Lance confirmed that with the very dangerous final corner yesterday and the wet, slick conditions, that chasing down Vinokourov was just not worth the risk."

12:33 CEST    19km/209km to go
The attacks continue with a group of riders getting a 10 second gap over the peloton, which is chasing fairly hard.

12:41 CEST    26.5km/201.5km to go
The riders in the break were Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon), Fabian Cancellara (Fassa), Manuel Quinziato (Saunier), Angel Vicioso (Liberty), Magnus Bäckstedt (Liquigas) and Michael Rich (Gerolsteiner). It was brought back at the 18 km mark.

A crash has brought down a few riders, including Tom Boonen. All are back in the peloton now.

12:44 CEST    28km/200km to go
The first sprint in Rambervillers (km 32.5) is approaching rapidly. It looks like the sprinters teams will try to keep it together, although Boonen will have a bit of work to do to get to the front again after his crash. That was poor timing.

12:49 CEST    31km/197km to go
Leon van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto) and Erik Dekker (Rabobank) have taken a flyer 2 km before the first sprint. They have a small lead over the bunch.

12:52 CEST    32km/196km to go
The leading pair have 10 seconds on the bunch as they near the sprint banner in Rambervillers. They should be able to stay clear. Dekker is also on the hunt for more mountain points, and there is a Cat. 4 climb coming up at km 46.

12:53 CEST   
Dekker and Van Bon have been caught by Jean-Patrick Nazon (Ag2r) and Jerome Pineau (Bouygues Telecom).

12:56 CEST    37km/191km to go
The break is over, just after the sprint. Nazon and Pineau had bridged up after the sprint banner, but then the peloton closed it down. The results of the sprint: 1. Leon Van Bon (Davitamon-Lotto), 2. Erik Dekker (Rabobank), 3. Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole). The latter is now within six points of Boonen's green jersey. Boonen wasn't really in a position to contest that sprint though.

13:01 CEST    42km/186km to go
The peloton is now on the first climb of the day, the Cat. 4 Col de la Chipotte. Karsten Kroon is the mountains leader on seven points, equal with Stéphane Augé. Dekker is on six, and Voeckler five. But the latter was one of those dropped on the final climb yesterday, so he's probably not a candidate for the spotty jersey in Paris.

13:05 CEST    44km/184km to go
The race is less than 1 km from the summit of the climb. Seven riders attacked after 39.5 km: Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa), Alberto Contador (Liberty), Fred Rodriguez (Davitamon), Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis), Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas), and Evgeni Petrov (Lampre) bridged up to them. Can they stay clear to the top?

13:10 CEST    50km/178km to go
They didn't make it. Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) attacked to take the three points, ahead of...Voeckler! But Augé took third (1 pt), and will keep the mountains jersey for the time being. The Cat. 3 climb coming up might change that though.

Wegmann has continued on his own, with McEwen joining him on the descent.

13:13 CEST    52km/176km to go
The bunch covered a quick 48.8 km in the first hour, which is fairly standard for Tour stages. McEwen and Wegmann have 18 seconds lead now.

13:14 CEST   
There are still over 20 km to go until the next climb, the Cat. 3 Col du Hantz, which is 3.5 km long and averages 5%.

13:18 CEST    56km/172km to go
Steve Zampieri (Phonak) has become the third rider to abandon the Tour. That leaves 186 of the 189 original starters left.

McEwen and Wegmann are doing well, extending their lead to half a minute at the 50 km point.

13:25 CEST    62km/166km to go
McEwen has now given up his attack with Wegmann, leaving the German all on his own with a 1'20 lead over the peloton.

13:29 CEST   
Wegmann is now over 2 minutes ahead of the peloton, which is not chasing him hard. It's early days yet, but he stands a good chance of staying away into Germany.

We spoke to Wegmann before the start today, and he told us: "I do have some objectives for today. But I already noticed yesterday that my legs don't turn like they should. When it's cold and wet I'm in trouble. Of course I'm happy to be going into Germany today and if a break goes, one of us should be in it, and I would be one of the candidates in our team to do so. But if it comes down to a sprint, Robert (Förster) is in good form so we have various possibilities.

13:37 CEST    69km/159km to go
Wegmann is now approaching the Col du Hantz. It's a Cat. 3 climb, and as he will almost certainly win the points, he should take over the mountains jersey today because he was first on the first Cat. 4 climb (3 points) and started the day on 3 points.

Wegmann has 3'43 on the peloton, which almost puts him in the virtual maillot jaune, as his deficit to Armstrong at the beginning of the stage was 3'46. Still a long way to go yet!

13:43 CEST    72.5km/155.5km to go
Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner), who began his attack on the first climb of the day after 45 km, is now on the Cat. 3 Col du Hantz, with a lead that is still increasing.

But it's not all easy going in the peloton, as yesterday's tragic hero Christophe Mengin (FDJ) has been dropped, and is 1'50 behind the main bunch already. That's going to be extremely tough for him to ride to the finish alone.

13:46 CEST    74km/154km to go
Mengin might be helped by a mass pit-stop in the peloton, which takes a minute or two. Wegmann now has seven minutes on the Col du Hantz. His maillot jaune virtuel is secure for a while now. He might even be wearing it when he crosses the German border in another 110 km.

Wegmann assured of the polka dot jersey today, providing he finishes of course. The points gained on this climb combined with his 6 existing points will be more than enough.

13:53 CEST    78km/150km to go
Wegmann is now flying down the other side of the Col du Hantz, bound for the feed zone at Urmatt (km 103). The bunch is 7'45 behind him. Not sure who took second on the climb yet - if it was Augé, then he might be able to prevent Wegmann from taking the polka dots as that would give him 11 points (Wegmann now has 10). We'll see shortly.

13:56 CEST    84km/144km to go
Aha - it was Wegmann's Gerolsteiner teammates Ronny Scholz and Beat Zberg taking second and third, with Rubens Bertogliati in fourth. That gives Wegmann the actual polka dot jersey by 2 points over Stéphane Augé. The peloton passed the summit 7'05 behind the leader.

14:02 CEST    90km/138km to go
Wegmann is near the bottom of the long, gradual descent of the Col du Hantz, and has 13 km to go before the feed zone. He has 7'30 on the peloton, but there's a lot of riding to come.

14:04 CEST   
We spoke to Phonak's Floyd Landis this morning before the stage start, and he filled us in on his day in Stage 6: "I had a bit of trouble yesterday after I got a flat and had to come back in the rain. But overall I'm feeling good, and the legs are good."

What about the climbs coming up in the next few days? "There should be some action but I don't think the race will be decided there."

14:13 CEST    100km/128km to go
Wegmann's lead has now started to fall, which is not a good sign with still over 128 km to go. It's 6'50 now as he reaches km 100.

14:17 CEST    103km/125km to go
Wegmann (with a bit of help from McEwen) has averaged 45.8 km/h in the second hour, and the average speed after two hours is 47.3 km/h. He has reached the feed zone in Urmatt.

Discovery Channel is leading the peloton, making sure that the German doesn't get too far in front.

14:23 CEST   
The weather today has been fairly dry so far, but now the peloton is starting to get wet. It's one of those days where it rains off and on all day.

14:28 CEST   
We spoke to CSC's press officer Brian Nygaard this morning to ask about the status of his riders. He told us that although Dave Zabriskie was dropped on yesterday's final climb, "He is recovering very well. His injuries were only minor."

As for Jens Voigt, Nygaard said, "Jens doesn't feel the rain at all. He's definitely going to be out and about today. There are only two hills, in the first half of the parcours, then it's flat. Depending on how big the break is, we'll see."

14:34 CEST    113km/115km to go
At the feedzone, Wegmann's lead has increased again to nearly 8 minutes as Discovery Channel leads the bunch through. Wegmann started the day 3'46 behind Armstrong on GC, which means that he is the virtual leader of the race for the time being. But he's not being given a big enough lead to really be a threat, and we can expect the sprinters teams to assume the position soon and start to bring him back.

14:36 CEST   
The rain is not falling at the moment, but it could easily start again. It's still not much above 15 degrees, and at the moment there is a 20 km/h tailwind, which is helping Mr Wegmann.

14:40 CEST    117km/111km to go
Wegmann nearly gets taken out by a race director's car as he tackles a corner. His lead is up to 8'30 as he goes through Molsheim, cheered on by huge crowds. He gets some encouragement and a bidon from the Gerolsteiner team car.

14:43 CEST    118km/110km to go
Pavel "Jaws" Padrnos leads the peloton with all of the Discovery Channel team in tow, including Lance of course. Sunshine now!

14:44 CEST   
Wegmann looks very focused as he rides alone at the head of the race. He's already been out there for 70 km on his own, but still has another 110 km to go.

14:48 CEST    122km/106km to go
Noval takes over from Padrnos for Discovery, keeping the gap at around 8 minutes. Wegmann is cheered on as he rides on wet roads now. He'll hope to maintain a gap into Germany, where there are millions (billions, even) of people out to watch the Tour. The Germans go mad whenever the Tour visits. Surprisingly, no German has won a stage in Germany.

Noval now takes the sharp corner where Wegmann was nearly taken out by a race car.

14:49 CEST    123km/105km to go
Yep, it's raining again. Wegmann gets a short sleeved jacket from the team car and puts it on. He doesn't have arm warmers, despite the relative chill in the air.

14:53 CEST    125km/103km to go
Armstrong has a slightly bored look on his face as he follows Hincapie and the rest of his teammates at the front of the peloton. Leipheimer is on his wheel. The gap is 7'53 as Padrnos and Noval keep swapping off.

Chris Horner is sorting himself out at the back of the bunch, as is Bernucci, yesterday's stage winner.

14:59 CEST    130km/98km to go
Wegmann takes a few speed humps in his stride through the streets of Quatzenheim. 8 minutes behind him, Noval and Padrnos are discussing the state of play. All the GC riders are clustered behind Lance, including Jens Voigt, who will want to do something in the finale today.

15:03 CEST    132km/96km to go
Wegmann has ditched the jacket now as it's stopped raining.

Wilfried Peeters talked about Tom Boonen's crash today on Belgian TV: "Tom Boonen crashed and broke his bike. He was in pain and had to see the race doctor. His back is hurting and he said he'll have to see the osteopath for sure this evening, there might be a blockage which could take the power away from his legs. Tom said he'll see what happens later on for the intermediate sprint and the final sprint."

15:09 CEST   
Another German looking to do well today is Jörg Ludewig (Domina Vacanze), who told us this morning, "This would be something for me if it was 30 degrees, hot, and more mountains (because it was raining at the time). My family and my girlfriend will be there, So I will try to go in a break. Our DS also said to ride in front today so I will try. You never know with the weather. A lot of guys want to ride hard. We saw that last year when Flecha took the jersey. OK, 150 guys are here with the same idea, but I still want to try."

15:15 CEST    138km/90km to go
Wegmann's lead bounces back over the 8-minute mark for a bit as the race wends its way (well, just goes straight in front, mostly) across the flat Rhine Valley landscape. The rain has eased up a bit and Discovery are pulling it along without any obvious interest in closing it down.

Chris Brewer (Inside Discovery) at the finish tells us that its 21C and the roads are dry, but there are plenty of dark clouds still above. The final 10km are dead flat with the first half on the B36 highway then local barriered roads. There's one easy left hand corner at 8km but after that it's a 2-lane drag race to the finish line with a light wind to the riders' right.

15:25 CEST    148km/80km to go
Wegmann rolls through the bonus sprint at Brumath with a last reported lead of 7.55

15:30 CEST   
Christophe Moreau is now up at the front of the bunch for Crédit Agricole and the pace is quickening; Wegmann's lead has now fallen to seven minutes or so. Hushovd is well up presumably with an eye to the bonus points for second place at this sprint.

Quick.Step move up to contest it and Boonen takes second from Hushovd.

15:37 CEST    153km/75km to go
The wind-up for the sprint has brought Wegmann's lead sharply down to just over six minutes, but the sprinters' teams have gone back into the bunch and it is Discovery setting the pace again. However, the ease with which they made up two minutes in a few kilometres does suggest that their choice not to start the chase yet is not without good reason.

15:42 CEST    158km/70km to go
And no sooner do I type that than Davitamon-Lotto send three riders up to set the pace, and the pace is enough to string the bunch out quite noticeably.

The sun is now shining on the peloton as they wind through the traditional Alsatian streets of Weitbruch, steep tiled roofs and half-timbered gables. Wegmann's lead is now down to 4.54.

15:52 CEST    165km/63km to go
Quick.Step are now helping the chase, and Wegmann's hours in the spotlight seem decidedly numbered as the gap continues to come down fast. McEwen is a long way back in the bunch for the moment, though; the hammer is not yet down.

It's now raining at the finish in Karlsruhe.

16:04 CEST    173km/55km to go
Wegmann has picked up his efforts a bit; he was clearly pacing himself before, and the gap has stabilised a bit at 3.33. He's riding steadily, hands on the hoods, maybe rocking and rolling a bit on the slight rises.

Knaven comes up to the front of the bunch and takes a brisk turn as the ardoisier's motorbike comes back to show them the gap.

16:11 CEST    180km/48km to go
Lance Armstrong is doing his best to look uncomfortable, rubbing a cramped leg, maybe, or else preparing for an unexpected finisseur attack (remember: you heard it here first). The gap is shrinking more slowly but still steadily.

16:18 CEST    184km/44km to go
Philippe Gilbert is hanging on at the back, showing the signs of yesterday's crash. Before the stage he told Flemish TV "My injuries are not bad; the legs are still good.There won't be a problem during the race I think. I just hope it's not raining too much today. I think it'll be a mass sprint again today, Lotto and QuickStep will try to make sure of that."

Doesn't look like he's wrong. Wegmann's lead is down to 2.48 as the peloton is watched by three interested horses on the run into Roppenheim (a chestnut, a grey and a dapple grey). We're getting close to the border now.

16:27 CEST   
The broad road between potato fields up to the border is in sunshine, but the skies ahead and to the south are all but black.

Wegmann rides alone across the Rhine into his home country. The crowds are out in good force. Blue balloons seem to be popular among the crowds here.

As the bunch crosses the border, Jens Voigt makes a little ceremonial sally up the road, but only for fun.

16:34 CEST    196km/32km to go
The crowds in Germany are plentiful, as expected, Wegmann's lead is down under 2 minutes now; he looks resigned but he will at least pick up the cash for the day's final bonus sprint at Rastatt.

An entire yellow-clad local team appear to be watching the race from turbo trainers on a trailer by the road up here...

16:35 CEST    197km/31km to go
Crash in the bunch on a fairly oblique level crossing. Twenty or thirty riders are down in the middle of the bunch.

16:36 CEST   
Zabriskie was one of those who crashed. Also Sprick (Bouygues), Cooke (FDJ), Rodriguez (Davitamon-Lotto), Calzati (Ag2r) - Dumoulin waiting for him. Doesn't look like anything too serious fortunately.

16:39 CEST   
Furlan was down and two other Domina Vacanze riders are back with him; in front the bunch speeds up as Boonen and Hushovd take the minor places on the bonus sprint; Wegmann naturally crossed first. There are a straggle of riders trying to make their way back up through the race convoy.

16:44 CEST    201km/27km to go
There were actually two separate crashes on each side of the bunch there; Alexandr Vinokourov was lucky to miss it. There are a few more mineral lines crossing in these closing kilometres, and a nasty set of tramlines at 4 km to go; lets hope that that crash served as a wake-up call.

All the cars are being pulled out from behind Wegmann now. Guerini punctures.

16:45 CEST   
The brave Wegmann has the peloton just 20 seconds behind him, but it has gone flat across the road, nobody taking up the chase.

16:48 CEST    205km/23km to go
Wegmann can't wait to be caught, but it looks as though the bunch are waiting for crash victims to catch up. Telekom has moved to the front in numbers; apart from staying out of trouble, they probably feel obliged to show their faces here in Germany.

Fabien Cancellara is being brought back up by three Fassa Bortolo team-mates.

16:53 CEST   
Wegmann is caught after 160 km alone in the lead. He will have the spotty jersey to make up for the disappointment of not finishing the stage at the front.

Johan Van Summeren is leading the bunch, as he has for much of the last couple of hours.

Francisco Mancebo is off the back among the cars - probably one of the crash victims - with Garcia Acosta pacing him back up. Towards the front, Armstrong is marking Ullrich, it appears.

16:54 CEST   
Mancebo is back on OK

16:58 CEST    214km/14km to go
Massive crowds are watching; as the race comes into Ettlingen, with bridges and verges crowded. Sadly for them and the riders, it's started raining again, quite heavily.

17:01 CEST   
Much of the course here is on very wide highways - now actually on an Autobahn, in fact - but there are some fairly abrupt chicanes as the race funnels into slip-roads here and there, with riders trapped at the back having to slow to a near-halt and then struggle to get back with the pace.

Sébastien Joly is now setting the pace for Crédit Agricole, with Kevin Hulsmans for Quick.Step leading a second arrowhead on the other side of this two or three lane highway.

17:03 CEST   
The white jersey of Yaroslav Popovych is leading a (presumably non-sprinting) train of George Hincapie and Lance Armstrong; Vinokourov is on Lance's wheel.

17:05 CEST   
Fassa Bortolo moving Cancellara up now - finisseur move coming? Matt White is working for COfidis; Jörg Jaksche is leading Allan Davis up.

17:06 CEST    222km/6km to go
Off the Autobahn and into the final kilometres of city streets, with crowds lining a couple deep in most places.

17:07 CEST   
Matt White is leading out now with the bunch almost lined out behind him. Bäckstedt is moving up. Crowds getting thicker.

17:07 CEST    224km/4km to go
The dangerous tramline crossing has been negotiated safely

17:09 CEST   
Glomser and O'Grady are moving up. It's getting very lively indeed now. Tankink is on WHite's wheel, lots of Quick.Step and AG2R jerseys

17:09 CEST   
Fassa on the front now. Boonen is well positioned in about 15th.

17:10 CEST    225km/3km to go
FDJ moving up for Cooke or Eisel; anybody who is anybody is getting up there now.

17:11 CEST    226km/2km to go
Boonen catches his train at the 2 km banner, a bit close to the right. McEwen in there somewhere.

17:12 CEST   
Riders dropping back after their turns are forming moving obstacles, under the flamme route it's Sebastien Hinault on the front, then Liquigas

17:13 CEST   
Brad McGee controlling stuff, then Cooke goes for a long one. There is a stack-up at 100 m to go - Galvez and then it's McEwen who comes through out of almost nowhere to take it just ahead of Magnus Bäckstedt.

Bernhard Eisel took third, with Glomser in fourth a length back just ahead of Cooke and Boonen, who was well placed but didn't have it today. Angelo Furlan went down with Galvez there, but it looks like nobody else did - Jérome Pineau (I think) wins the day's prize for best bike handling missing him, though. I suspect that the race jury may be looking at Allan Davis's somewhat diagonal line there with some interest.

So that's now a second stage win for McEwen who will have done his reputation for being able to sneak up through a bunch in the finishing stages no harm at all, to say nothing of his raw speed (they were clocked at 67 kph in the sprint there). Boonen's efforts in the bonus sprints out on the road and an earlier crash seemed to have taken the edge off his finish, while Bäckstedt was very impressive, but not quite quick enough.


1 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto                           5.03.45
2 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Liquigas-Bianchi                      
3 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Française Des Jeux         
4 Gerrit Glomser (Aut) Lampre-Caffita                       
5 Baden Cooke (Aus) Française Des Jeux                        
6 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Fassa Bortolo             
7 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step                                
8 Gianluca Bortolami (Ita) Lampre-Caffita                  
9 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole                          
10 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Fassa Bortolo                 

General classification after stage 7
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel                      23.01.56 
2 George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel                          0.55
3 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team                         1.02
4 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC                                        1.04
5 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC                                      1.07
6 Jose Luis Rubiera (Spa) Discovery Channel                        1.14
7 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel                        1.16
8 Benjamin Noval (Spa) Discovery Channel                           1.26
9 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC                                            
10 Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Nor) Team CSC                                1.32


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