Though only 159km, this is the first 2008 stage to hit any Category 2 mountain climbs - but really this is going to be just a warm up for the more intense mountain climbing to come in the Pyrenees and the Alpes. Though the Tour has passed over the summit of Puy Mary seven times before, that average gradient of 12% is enough to make any sprinter shudder! The view from up top is incredible but I doubt any of the riders will be stopping to take it in!
A magnificent stage it was! Several early attempts at breakaways were reeled in by Teams Columbia and Caisse d'Epargne. Once we hit the mountains, the peloton was split up and a four-man leading group emerged. Several attacks made the final descent into Aurillac tres interessant, but finally Caisse d'Epargne's Louis Leon Sanchez gained a sizable lead - enough to allow him to slow down and seriously enjoy the moment as he crossed the finish line, the stage winner. Lovely to watch!
There was a major shakeup of the Team standings, with Garmin Chipotle unfortunately slipping down the standings to 14th, over 10 minutes behind the new leaders, Team CSC. The only other change to the standings was in the polka dot jersey, which has been taken over by David de la Fuente, who took first place in each of the final three climbs.
The standings at the end of Stage 7:
Yellow: Kim Kirchen (Columbia)
Green: Kim Kirchen (Columbia)
Polka Dot: David de la Fuente (Saunier Duval-Scott)
White: Thomas Lövkvist (Team Columbia)
Team: Team CSC
Four riders did not finish today's stage and therefore must abandon the overall race: Mauro Facci (Quick Step), John Gadret (Ag2r), the very popular Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) (wonder if they'll stop painting his name on the road now?) and breakaway leader from Stage One, Lilian Jegou (FDJeux). Jegou had what appears to be a brutal crash, resulting in a compound arm fracture and a visit to hospital for brain and back scans. Although he finished the race, Garmin Chipotle's Magnus Backstedt was 5 minutes outside the cutoff time, meaning his Tour is over as well.
Unfortunately for cycling fans, the 2008 Tour has now had its first expulsion for doping offenses. Regrettably, the news is now official that Team Liquigas rider Manuel Beltran has tested positive for the banned substance EPO. Liquigas has suspended Beltran, who maintains his innocence. If the results of a counter-analysis also show evidence of drug use, Beltran will be sacked from Liquigas. The quick move to suspend Beltran may help Tour organisers decide to view this as an isolated case and allow the rest of Team Liquigas to continue to compete.
But let's not let this news discourage us! We still have 170 cyclists and an absolutely gripping race for Paris to watch! Knit on!!
Aujourd'ui, I have a little activité du week-end pour vous - Tour de Blogs. There are no prizes involved but the more you give, the more you will receive, je promets! We have all been inspired by the amazing progress our teams are reporting in the first stage of the Tour... now it is time to go find your teammates' blogs, and your jersey-mates' blogs, and the blogs of people you don't know and the blogs of people who are knitting things you're interested in (the list goes on and on...) and leave them a comment! Here are some suggestions, but I'm sure once you get started you'll have plenty of ideas of your own:
- Gee, these mountain stages are tough, aren't they?
- oooh la la, I love your Clapotis!
- Oh dear, you seem to have fallen off your bike, let me help pace you back into the peloton!
And now for another exciting circuit of our teams' progress!
Team Rabobank's update for Stage Six was eaten in yesterday's posting weirdness - what was that? The blog equivalent of a crash in the feed zone? Anyway, like the riders, we're experiencing twists of fortune good and bad. Kate lost a day tending to a small domestique with tummy trouble, then discovered her Ondulation tunic was looking too small and had to frog. But she's a fighter, so she cast on right away with more stitches and is weaving up through the team cars to rejoin us. And Sandy is back in the saddle with entrelac after her abortive sock attempt: she's now knitting a Market Squares bag. Meanwhile, Bells is triumphantly waving a handsome pair of finished Waving Lace socks:
Now she can turn all her attention to her eyelet cardigan. Sarah feels like she's fighting her way up a 12% grade as the shoulders of her cardi get wider and wider, but she's only one chart repetition short of the sleeve divide. At that point, it will be a technical descent, but at least it's downhill! She likes her chances for finishing by the 27th. And Beth put in a heroic sprint on Stage 5 to beat Mark Cavendish and our own Oscar Freire, completing the heel of her Baudelaire sock just before they crossed the line! She'll finish her first sock by the time the riders hit the Pyrenees at this rate!
Ina is in the vast expanse of garter-stitch with her Shetsoie shawl. She describes this all in French on her blog (it looks like pretty decent French to me, but mine isn't that great either)!
Christina, after an indecisive beginning, is working on a Upstairs shawl in the day and a Kimono Shawl at night (see both below). Wow. That's a big undertaking!
And finally, after a week and a half of waiting, Sarah's pattern has arrived. She's flying this weekend to NYC and will have some great knitting time on the plane.
I (Teri) am having my own rest-day tomorrow (a family wedding to go to) so there will be no CSC update. But, hopefully we'll all have big news to share on Sunday with lots of knitting progress.