That man Steve Cummings (Dimension Data & GB); as with his team mate Mark Cavendish, we’re running out of superlatives – the rider from the Wirral followed his usual formula; infiltrate the break of the day on a tough day, attack them hard and solo to victory.
Against the finest riders on the planet.
Cummings wins; GVA turns the tables on everyone and extends his GC lea, Pinot slumps and the red kite comes down in sympathy – a great stage.
Nearly 50 K were covered in the first hour with a break comprising Peter Sagan (Tinkoff), Mark Cavendish (Dimensions Data), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Gorka Izagirre (Movistar), Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling), Ramunas Navardauskas (Cannondale-Drapac), Jérémy Roy (FDJ), Cesare Benedetti (Bora-Argon 18), Nicolas Edet, Geoffrey Soupe (Cofidis) and Chris Anker Sorensen (Fortuneo-Vital Concept) going away during that time.
But in a very fluid, dynamic start to the stage it came back – only for another, even bigger break of 29 to form; yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC), Alexis Vuillermoz, Jan Bakelants (Ag2r-La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Luis Mate (Cofidis), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin), Daryl Impey (Orica-Bike Exchange), Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep), Tsgabu Grmay (Lampre-Merida), Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Oliver Naesen (IAM Cycling), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Matti Breschel (Tinkoff), Pierre-Luc Perichon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Cesare Benedetti, Paul Voss (Bora-Argon 18), Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Soudal), Angel Vicioso (Katusha), Kristijan Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Antoine Duschesne (Direct Energie), Borut Bozic (Cofidis), Alex Howes, Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale), Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Paul Martens (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Gorka Izagirre (Movistar).
With around two hours to go – 85 kilometres – the break has 5:45 meaning GVA has almost 11 minutes lead on GC right now.
Nice work from the Belgian – those men from the Flatlands are such foxes.
Sky are lined out on the front, they’re not panicking but neither are they letting this one get out of sight – and Movistar are thinking the same thing, deploying men to help with the chase.
There are some BiG names in that breakaway – Cancellara, Cummings, Roelandts, Stuyven, Breschel, Nibali – all race winners.
The K’s click down, so does the lead but not dramatically – 52 K to go and 4:37 is the lead as the break rolls into the appetiser for the Aspin, the fourth cat. Cote de Capvern at 117 kilometres.
The intermediate sprint comes after that – no big sprinters contesting that one, then?
Nibali takes the one point on the Capvern as Movistar turn up the wick behind and the gap narrows to 3:32.
The break starts to animate; Navarro, Duchesne and Breschel go clear – Nibali chases, as does Cummings.
And the Dimension Data man is across – so now four up front inside 20 miles to go with the GVA group @ 35 seconds and the peloton back out to five minutes.
And Cummings has inevitably headed off up the road, ‘en seule’ – flat back, high cadence, smooth, he’s on, ‘one of his days’ methinks.
Around half of the break has sat up but GVA, Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange), Paul Martens (Team LottoNl-Jumbo), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), Pierre-Luc Périchon (Fortuneo-Vital Concept), Simon Geschke (Giant-Alpecin) and Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) have not and are spelling through in pursuit of Cummings with Lutsenko working hard for Nibali.
Onto the Aspin now, 12 K @ 6.5% with Nibali leading the pursuit @ 30 seconds; GVA, Impey and Navarro hang tough – F des J are setting the tempo back in the peloton with the gap at 4:30 to the leaders.
Giant’s Warren Barguil decides to go it alone with F des J continuing to set the pace as Cummings is inside 10 miles to go with half of that downhill.
Barguil eases and GVA has to call ‘time’ behind Nibali, he’ll find a rhythm and stick with it to the summit; he’ll lose time but not five minutes and should finish the day with a bigger gap than he started with – no one could have predicted that, this morning.
Nibali can’t close Cummings down; the Liverpool supporter now has 46 seconds on the Italian as the summit gets ever nearer and the prospect of that swooping descent – Nibali is quick downhill but so is Cummings…
Back in the bunch there’s no panic as F des J continue to tap it out with Movistar and Sky seemingly agreed to a truce.
Cummings has nearly a minute now – barring act of God this looks won.
Pinot pops, he did look ropey in the Massif Central, t’other day – bad news bears for French hopes…
There are 1500 metres to the summit as Cummings pulls his lead out to over a minute on the Nibali group with GVA @ 2:15.
Nibali pops as Navarro finally goes through, Impey follows, The Shark doesn’t…
Cummings tops the Aspin, Navarro and Impey are at a minute – Nibali is a demon descender so this will be an interesting drop to the finis albeit there’s a ‘kick’ up to the line.
GVA is over now, too; back in the peloton Pozzovivo and Alaphilippe make a move but Sky aren’t having that – they’re at four minutes on Cummings who’s well into the descent but taking no risks.
GVA should lead by around seven minutes tonight (it was actually 6:38, ed.) – remarkable.
Red kite for Cummings as the road rises.
Steve Cummings (Dimension Data & GB) wins Stage Seven of the 2016 Tour de France – a brilliant ride to add to his three other magnificent stage wins this year.
The South African team have now won four stages from seven – we’re only one week in their Tour is already a resounding success.
Impey second, Navarro third, Nibali fourth, GVA fifth and well solid in yellow.
More drama as the flame rouge inflatable arch collapses on the peloton with Adam Yates taken out by the sudden deflation a few seconds ahead of the “Bigs” group as he tried to take enough time to move into the lead in the Young Rider classification; all times today will therefore be taken at three K to go – GVA won’t be complaining about that.
It’s the BMC Belgian’s day, again.
Thibaut Pinot has dropped three minutes on the favourites, today – ouch!
A black cloud over French hopes today then but only sunshine for The Wirral and Flanders (as well on Leith) on a great day of racing.