Virenque Takes Stage 7 and Yellow Jersey
Richard Virenque (Quick Step) has taken Stage 7 of the Tour de France and the maillot jaune.
Richard Virenque (Quick Step) has taken Stage 7 of the Tour de France and the maillot jaune. The French climber soloed home to win the mountainous, 230.5-km stage from Lyon to Morzine in 6:06:03. Rolf Aldag (Telekom) was second at 2:29, and Sylvain Chavanel (Brioches La Boulangere) finished third at 3:45.
The day's first break was the break of the day. Just after the end of the neutral start, Paolo Bettini (Quick Step), Aldag, Mederic Clain (Cofidis), and Benoit Polivet (Credit Agricole) attacked. Virenque and Jesus Manzano (Kelme) set out after the break. Manzano crashed on the descent of the Category 2 Col de Portes (56 km) and eventually abandoned because of dehydration. Green jersey wearer Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) abandoned, and Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com) inherited his jersey.
Clain was dropped on the Col de Portes, and Virenque caught the leaders on the descent. Virenque led the break over the Category 2 Cote du Mont des Princes and the Category 3 Cote de Cruseilles to take the lead in the King of the Mountains competition. With 46 km left, the break led the first group, which contained all of the favorites, by 9:10.
At the base of the Category 1 Col de la Ramaz, Bettini and Virenque dropped Aldag and Polivet. Aldag fought his way back to the leaders, but Virenque dropped him and Bettini. Behind the trio, the U.S. Postal Service rode tempo. The pace dropped maillot jaune Victor Hugo Pena (U.S. Postal Service), Giro champion Gilberto Simoni (Saeco), world time trial champion Santiago Botero (Telekom), Angel Casero (Team Bianchi), and Vuelta champion Aitor Gonzalez (Fassa Bortolo). All are now out of contention for the overall victory.
Virenque breasted the Ramaz 1:32 ahead of Aldag, 3:20 ahead of Polivet, and 3:50 ahead of the lead group, which contained Lance Armstrong, his teammates, and all of the remaining contenders. The Postal Service was willing to allow Virenque the stage win, the yellow jersey, and the responsibility of defending it. Virenque got them all. In the last few km, Chavanel attacked from the peloton to grab third place.
In the overall, Virenque leads Armstrong by 2:37 and Aldag by 2:48. Aldag should drop out of the top three tomorrow. Stage 8, a 219-km ride from Sallanches to L'Alpe d'Huez, will feature the Hors Categorie Col du Galibier and the Hors Categorie finishing climb. Will Virenque keep the yellow jersey from Armstrong, Jan Ullrich (Team Bianchi), and others? Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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