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"With the Mur de Bretagne, I wouldn't say it's going to be as hard as the Mur de Huy earlier this week, but certainly it's a stage that is going to test people. There could be a few more time gaps at the finish there."

Photo: Sirotti








10.07.2015 @ 21:58 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Chris Froome moved back into the yellow jersey at the Tour de France after a safe passage through stage seven.


The Team Sky rider began the day as the virtual leader on the road but had to complete the 190.5-kilometre test before he could return to the podium and pull on the famous maillot jaune.


He did that with the help of his team-mates, who combined to keep the Brit protected and arrived at the front en masse in the closing stages as the race headed into Fougeres for a sprint.


With one week of racing complete Froome holds an advantage of 11 seconds over Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), who was just edged out in the day's bunch kick by winner Mark Cavendish.


Taking his 26th Tour stage success, Cavendish (Etixx - Quick-Step) found a clear path to the line and accelerated hard to win, while behind both Froome and Geraint Thomas came home in and around the top 20.


Thomas had been forced to fight back from a late puncture in Brittany but also retained a strong overall foothold of ninth place on GC, 1:03 back on Froome.


"It's a huge privilege to be back in the yellow jersey again," said Froome after the stage. "Unfortunately these aren't the circumstances under which I wanted to get the yellow jersey, given that Tony Martin crashed out of the race the way he did yesterday. But I am happy to be back in yellow and there's a lot of bike racing still to go from here. We're just looking to get through these next few days into the team time trial as best we can and then we'll re-evaluate from there.


"It's basically a day by day process - evaluating how everyone's feeling and the stage that is coming up. What other motivations are out there and what other teams are going to be riding - for a sprint finish for example. On a stage like today it wasn't really the burden of a GC team to do all the work on the front. There are a lot of factors that come into it. But I'm confident with the team I've got around me. They've done a fantastic job so far.


"Today was actually a much needed, much more relaxed stage for everyone in the peloton. It seemed to be a lot more calm. We didn't have cross-winds today and the weather was good. It was just a good day on the bike and I think everyone's happy to get through safely.


"We've had a relax day today. It was much needed. It's amazing in the bunch to see so many bandages and bleeding shorts. I have the great feeling that the race calms down now."




The day began with no yellow jersey in the bunch after overnight leader Tony Martin (Etixx - Quick-Step) had been forced to leave the race following a broken collarbone, sustained in a late crash on stage six.


Despite the stage's straightforward nature on paper, there was again a reminder about no one being safe after Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) suffered a small fall during the neutralised zone.


Etixx - Quick-Step and Lotto Soudal set about riding on the front as the stage proper began, controlling a five-man break.


Team Sky began to move up with 30km to go with Luke Rowe, Pete Kennaugh and Nicolas Roche initially leading the line.


The GC teams and sprinters' squads began to mass at the head of affairs, and as the race came back together in the final 10km it was Team Sky riders who swarmed the front of the race, successfully keeping Froome out of the trouble.




Fresh from another strong finish Thomas talked about how the team approached the day tactically.


"We just left it to the sprinters' teams as we knew it was the last big sprint stage for a long time," he told Eurosport. "We knew they'd be keen so we just left it to them and luckily we didn't have to do a thing. We just had to try and hide really and look after the legs for tomorrow and then the team time trial.


"Tomorrow it's all up and down, left and right. They are hard roads, like in the UK. I think as long as we keep riding as we have been doing towards the front it should be okay. And having the jersey gives you that little extra motivation and respect to stay at the front."


The stage ends in a tough climb of the Mur de Bretagne, last seen at the Tour back in 2011. On Saturday's uphill finish Froome added: "With the Mur de Bretagne, I wouldn't say it's going to be as hard as the Mur de Huy earlier this week, but certainly it's a stage that is going to test people. There could be a few more time gaps at the finish there. We'll see how it turns out.


"Honestly, I don't know Mûr-de-Bretagne very well. I'll have to study it tonight. It doesn't look as selective as Mur de Huy but in the past there have been some gaps between GC contenders, everyone will have that in mind. It also depends on how the stage unfolds earlier on. 

"Of course there's a lot of added pressure that comes with being the yellow jersey but that's all part of it. You need to find an extra hour of the day for all the ceremony processes that come with it but I wouldn't swap that for the world. This jersey means everything to me.


"There was a heated moment between Vincenzo Nibali and myself yesterday. Initially he thought I was the reason for him to fall so I wanted to clarify that it wasn't the case. That's behind us now.


"I have the yellow jersey, which is a huge privilege. To be honest it doesn't change much. It boosts the team's motivation but we already have that mentality. With or without the jersey, we're very pro active and we work more than we'd normally have to.


"The atmosphere in the team is great. I wouldn't say it's down to me. It's a group. Some of the guys have grown up in the British system. They've been together since they were juniors, like ten or twelve years in the same group already. We aren't as serious as we look like from the outside. We're young guys happy to lead the world's biggest bike race.

"Especially given what happened to me last year, my big goal, mentally more than physically, was to be here at the front of the race and to get through the first week without major issues. Having guys around like Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe who are used to ride the classics has given me confidence. They've showed me the way. We have a strong team for the team time trial, especially on this course, but we have to get through tomorrow first.


"I don't know how my rivals see me but I can see Tejay [van Garderen] is in great form, only a few seconds behind me on GC. [Nairo] Quintana has lost a lot of time. It's been a big blow for him but I expect him to be strong in the mountains. Alberto Contador has finished the Giro. The big question is how fresh he will be in the mountains. Only time will tell. Nibali? I've seen him well this week."



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