Tour de France Stage 7 Review

Another stage win for Dimension Data, this time with Stephen Cummings while behind biggest attack to the GC contenders came from the finishing arch. The first day in the Pyrenees delivered the kind of results we expected.

Even there was no Froome-Quintana duel there was more than enough in today’s stage to merit a separate review.

The stage begun with Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan in the early breakaway, both trying to stay away to take the intermediate sprint and suggesting that Cavendish is in no mood to retreat from the race in order to switch to his Olympic ambitions. Etixx-Quickstep started chasing because they want to help Marcel Kittel’s bid for the green jersey and every intermediate sprint still counts for now in a contest that’s open. There are several full speed finishes to come where the pure sprinters can bag points at Sagan’s expense. The move never got much more than 30 seconds and it was brought back after an hour’s toil. An even bigger breakaway went clear with 29 riders and all but three teams including yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet.

Vincenzo Nibali was the first to start stirring the group and then with 42km to go Navarro, Breschel and Duschene got away before Stephen Cummings bridged across. It’s surprising that at this point Cummings was getting so much room, you’d think every team manager would be saying “never let Cummings out of your sight“. In time Cummings dived to one side of a traffic island to get a gap on his breakaway companions and ride away, taking 30 seconds by the time he started the Col d’Aspin.

Behind Nibali took up the chase. At times it looked like he was training on the Aspin, one minute attacking in a big gear and the next spinning a low gear and constantly looking down at his power meter, Froome-style.

Greg Van Avermaet was shelled by Nibali but only halfway up the Aspin and so finished the day extending his overall lead in the yellow jersey when he was expected to lose time. Can he win the Tour? Of course not and his efforts today will mean sore legs tomorrow and if he doesn’t lose his yellow jersey tomorrow then it’ll be over by Sunday.

FDJ led the bunch into the Col d’Aspin only for Thibaut Pinot to get dropped later on. An embarrassing reversal? Perhaps but it’s more likely they knew he wasn’t going so well and wanted to position him and set a reasonable tempo, you could see FDJ were not lining out the peloton. The real problem was that when Pinot was dropped it was when what was left of the group was spread over the road and not going full gas. Previews here have been expressing doubt over his form and now we got confirmation. He lost 2m46s and says he’s still got the same for as the Dauphiné where he was off the pace but salvaged a stage. Bouncing back will be easier said than done given the pressure-cooker environment.

Otherwise it was a steady day for the main GC contenders. Movistar and Team Sky did some work but no more. Warren Barguil attacked early on the Aspin, being generous we’d call this a brave move and being blunter we’d say it was pointless. He was quickly reeled in (or perhaps his team told him to cool it via the radio) and the folly of it was seen when he was dropped over the top of the climb but he managed to get back in contact on the descent. Barguil is an attacking rider but just needs to pick his moments.

Julian Alaphilippe had a go but got reeled in and then over the top of the col Dan Martin surged. Was this a pre-planned team 1-2? Adam Yates followed and was taking risks on the descent to take the white jersey. Coming into Payolle he had a small lead on the others when the 1km to go arch collapsed on him prompting a bizarre moment with a log jam of riders stuck behind. Yates needed four stitches to his chin and it could have been worse.

A word on Cumming’s Olympic selection controversy. He wasn’t picked for the British team and said out loud that it’s because he’s not a Team Sky rider, that he’s outside of the GB system. He’s certainly proved a point. But his breakaway also shows he’s longshot kind of rider who plays his own card. Given how hilly the Rio course is, the pick of Stannard seems odd viewed from here but as people speculate on what may or may not happen in Brazil in a month’s time tonight Cummings is celebrating his fourth win this season and the beauty of a solo stage win in the Tour de France.

This evening the race is in Pau, one the most-visited desintations for the race. The poet Lamartine wrote “Pau has the most beautiful view of the land in the way Naples has the best view of the sea“. As the riders rest and recover tonight they can may not be able to see the Pyrenees through the clouds but they know the race for the yellow jersey begins tomorrow.

Provisional standings

30 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 7 Review”

  1. Re Cummings and GB Rio selection, even more than Stannard it’s Kennaugh’s selection I’m least impressed with.

    I’m a Kennaugh fan but he ain’t the most consistent rider at the best of times – he can be fantastic or he can be hanging off the back, you never know what you’re going to get. Furthermore he’s been on the recovery road after breaking his collarbone in Rio…and the men’s RR is Rio is only a month away…


    Anyway….another top class ride by the master pickpocket, Steve Cummings

    • Dimension Data could ride under the Jolly Roger, loveable daring-do rogues of cycling’s High Seas, with their thrilling raids to plunder the treasure!
      We love DDD!

    • yeah, I agree. In fact I think it’s a stretch to think that Froome will win in Rio – he has never won a proper race like that, only relatively calm stages which end in an uphill finish. the idea that they will have a sky train keeping him safe to the end won’t happen with so few guys.

      besides – Cummings works when he’s asked to, as in stage 2 when he was on the front much of the day

    • At Rio, the bunch won’t be napping or saving their powder for the next day, a strong breakaway won’t be allowed up the road, and the course is much climby-er than any stage Cummings has ever won – it finishes with the equivalent of three Col d’Aspin climbs (8.5 km @ average 5.7% which is actually more like average 8% with a short sharp descent mid-climb).

      So Cummings would have no chance of winning, the question for the selectors would be if he would be the best helper for someone who could possibly win it? That someone is Froome and it isn’t unreasonable to conclude that Kennaugh or Stannard will be better helpers than Cummings. Cummings has the reputation of a rider who is usually cruising around the back unless he’s out in a breakaway. Not what British Cycling would be looking for.

      • But breakaway riders can often win one-day races. Having Cummings up the road trying that would also mean that Britain wouldn’t have to chase. Ergo, Stannard wouldn’t be necessary – which he might well not be anyway.

  2. This was an exciting stage to watch, from start to finish, even if the favorites basically took the day off. When I saw Nibbles go, I thought the stage result was sealed, but I guess he doesn’t have the legs. Nice touch by the organizers, having the Flam Rouge banner collapse across the roadway to at least keep the main field alert.

  3. Thanks for the quick writeup…

    Very impressive ride by Cummings…. It seems like the Olympic selection is a not a fair process in many countries. Likewise the number of riders per Nation, makes it so that for many nations the only way to win is to go for breakaway/solo effort. This doesn’t slant the tables fairly.

    Not sure what they do with the Adam Yates results, at this point – it doesn’t seem rational that his reward for taking a risk and attacking, should be that the Arch fell down on him (risking serious injury). It would have been hard to hold the lead to the finish, but he might have. Everyone else had the chance to go with him and they didn’t, counting on others to do the work. With the new tracking technology – they should be able to give him at least some credit for his efforts. I know there are rules, but there should be a general sporting overlay, that include nationality impartial thinkers.

    • It’s what’s called a “racing incident” and all the riders will be placed according to their position when they crossed the finish line but the times taken are based on their time at the 3km to go point. So Adam Yates was 73rd on the stage… but finished with the sixth fastest time of 3m30s, taking 7s on the group.

  4. “the 1km to go arch”: la flamme rouge is way more poetic!

    As french is one of your first languages, why not use it from time to time to add more poésie to your writing ? Juste une suggestion!

    • Guess the nice Lamartine quote will have to do. The flamme rouge itself didn’t cause any trouble being so small but the deflatable arch was an issue.

  5. Nice win for Steve and Dimension Data!
    Pretty random interview post stage with Cummings but great action and a good day for us Saffas with Darryl Impey coming in second.

    Oh and keep up the Sterling work Inner Ring.

  6. Does anyone else think Vincenzo Nibali’s recent form has been bizarre? In the Giro he seemed out of it, with a poor performance on the mountain time trial, the Italian media full of tales of woe. Yet a few days later he was pedalling into the lead (yes he was helped by Kruijswijk’s crash but that was partly brought about by the pressure from Nibali) to complete a miracle comeback to claim victory. Here he has been blowing hot & cold, dropped yesterday, in the breakaway today but clearly unable to keep up with Steve Cummings (take nothing away from Steve but is he really a better climber than Nibali?) when every expectation was that he would close up on Steve and use his descending skills to win the stage. Then there is the very odd goings on in the Astana team. Using the TdF in this way hardly seems good prep for Rio. Is there any logical explanation?

    • I am generally baffled by Nibali. puzzled that he even won this years Giro I don’t find him at all exciting like he was a few seasons ago and to me it seems that Astana have sucked the life out of him. Funny way of showing all his support for Aru! he seems to be making too many half arsed attempts at, well whatever todays example was supposed to be. A stage? a time gap? a training session??

      • There is no support for Aru. The two don’t seem to care for each other at all, I saw them near the start and there was no acknowledgement of each other, no talk and chit chat or eye contact at all. Remember they were on separate pre-Tour altitude training camps, they’ve got different goals in this race and in the Olympics. Nibali is racing for himself and following the advice of his coach Paulo Slongo rather than submitting to the leadership of Aru. Of course interests can coincide, going up the road means Aru and Co. can sit tight but this feels oblique, Nibali is doing his own thing.

    • I persoanlly think he eased off yesterday and deliberately lost time as when he slowed up he looked OK and as if he chose to sit up.

      Today when he was trying to bridge gap to Cummings he did it without sharing workload. Maybe he thought he had enough to close it alone and his effort eventually caught up with him?

      • On The Cycling Podcast Richard & Lionel noted that Nibali was “helping” Aru by attacking incessantly.

        Astana squabbles aside, great stage, great win by Cummins and time bonus to Inrng for the rapid write-up.

  7. Regarding the board casting, have to say I am enjoying the new ITV production at the moment. Millar & Boulting may still be immature as commentators, but they bring in so much more fun and prospective.

    • Millar is brilliant at explaining what is happening and giving great insight into the tactics of the teams.

      Think ITV4s coverage is spot as I also like Gary Ilman dry sense of humour and enjoy listening to Chris Boardman

  8. “It’s surprising that at this point Cummings was getting so much room, you’d think every team manager would be saying “never let Cummings out of your sight“. ”
    Exactly. As soon as I saw Cummings in the break I felt this is his to win. And bitter sweet revenge for non selection.

    • ‘never let Cummings out of your sight’ and actually being able to stop him when he really goes for it appear to be different things 🙂

  9. It seems this year, that stage wins have been won with brains, as much as brawn. Most of that goes to Cav and Cummings! Avermaet’s performance today was also impressive, and so was Contador’s. Not losing time today is a good sign.

    Cav’s post stage comments revealed impressive intelligence, especially regarding his chief competitors’ tendencies. These guys are the “muscle cars” of the peloton, but it takes a quick-witted rider to negotiate the intense battlefield that is the Tour de France sprint stage.

  10. I don’t really like how Nibali is riding. In a breakaway you can’t expect collaboration or strategies, there is the law of the jungle. I would expect him to work for Aru on a daily basis at least now in the initial stages. He will have time to pick a good breakaway in the next weeks. Tiralongo alone might not be enough for the Sardinian to save legs and plan attacks or strategies in the following.

  11. Just a word of thanks to Mr Ring… I only got into cycling again a couple of years ago and coupled it with reading more about professional road racing. My education came largely from reading these wonderful pages.
    That education was taken up a notch when I went to watch this stage on Friday, seeing Steve Cummings going up the Col d’Aspin was great (after the complete madness of the caravan), followed by the fragmented peloton.
    The atmosphere was great amongst the spectators too and a haven for lusting after top notch bikes and kit.

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