Sky strike first Tour de France blow
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 1:11p.m.
Stage seven winner Chris Froome wonders whether he exposed a chink in the armour of defending Tour de France champion Cadel Evans.
The British Sky team struck the first significant blow in the race yesterday as Froome sprinted clear at the summit finish and their leader Brad Wiggins donned his first Tour yellow jersey.
Froome beat Evans (BMC) by two seconds in the 199km stage from Tomblaine to the ski station of La Planche des Belles Filles in the Vosges mountains.
Wiggins finished third with the same time as Evans and leads the Australian by 10 seconds on the overall standings.
Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale), another pre-Tour favourite, was fourth and Estonian Rein Taaramae (Cofidis) took fifth.
"I thought 'here we go, Cadel is going to make a very big attack'," Froome said of Evans' surge.
"But he didn't so I thought 'why not put in an acceleration and see what happens, to see what what the response is?'
"There was no real response.
"It says to me that he didn't have the legs to go ... it wasn't a big acceleration that I put in.
"Hopefully, he's not holding anything back and he's gonna come out and surprise us in a couple of days."
For his part, Evans looked far from distressed when he spoke to the media soon after the finish and praised Froome for his win.
"I wanted to get some speed going into the curve - you try to take what advantage you can," Evans said.
"Froome was really incredible ... from behind, it looked like he won easily."
But Wiggins said the overall battle has only started.
"It's an incredible feeling and this is something I have dreamed of since being a child," he said of his first Tour lead.
"This Tour is going to come down to ... myself, Cadel and Nibali.
"You saw today [Cadel] never gives up - it's never over with him."
While Evans acknowledged Sky's weight of numbers, he noted it was not a longer mountain climb with a more consistent gradient.
He also pointed out there are not many summit finishes.
Orica-GreenEDGE's Swiss rider Michael Albasini was part of a seven-man break that lasted until nearly 5km to go.
The fast tempo set by Sky played havoc, with several contenders put into trouble.
Russian Denis Menchov (Katusha) lost 50 seconds, last year's third-placed finisher Frank Schleck (Radioshack-Nissan) finished a minute and nine seconds behind and Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) lost 1:52. Greg Henderson, the only New Zealander in the race is with the Lotto-Belisol team.
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