Tour de France: Levi Leipheimer slips out of contention as Team Sky goes on the offensive
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Saturday, July 07, 2012

Tour de France: Levi Leipheimer slips out of contention as Team Sky goes on the offensive

by Ben Atkins at 7:18 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
Sylvain Chavanel misses out on yellow jersey but Martin Velits enjoys the break in his debut Tour

levi leipheimerLevi Leipheimer saw his hopes of overall victory in the Tour de France disappear up the steep slopes of the climb to la Planche des Belles Filles in today’s seventh stage. The American had started the day in 22nd place, just 45 seconds behind then leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and, having avoided the carnage of the first week crashes, felt ready to go into battle in the mountains.

Unfortunately for the American, who finished third in the 2007 edition of the race, he was unable to stay with the fierce pace set by Team Sky and lost 3’11” to stage winner Chris Froome, and 3’09” to new yellow jersey Bradley Wiggins.

"Already before the final climb started there was a small climb before it, and I felt like I was at my max there," Leipheimer explained. "I couldn't jump out of the corner and hold the wheel. At the bottom of the climb it was already splitting up and I wasn't at the front. I just didn't feel like I had the power today. Just felt like a bad day.

“I hope it's my only one,” he continued. “You know it's the first big climb of the Tour. We were really blazing towards it, super fast. It was aggressive, a lot of stop and go, accelerating. That kind of killed my legs.”

Leipheimer slipped just five places to 27th but, more significantly, he now trails Wiggins by 3’47”, and his challenge for the overall victory would appear to be over. So too does that of Peter Velits, who also found himself dropped on the climb, losing 2’50” to the stage winner.

"I started the climb really good and in good position, so it was perfect," said the Slovakian rider. "In that way I did everything good. But then I went with all the best climbers in the last one and a half kilometres or so, and I just exploded. I was at my limit. I was on the limit, then I stayed on the limit even when I went slower. Maybe, because it was the first hard climbing, that I just have to get used to the really hard climbing. We will see on other days."

Also disappointed with the outcome of the stage was Sylvain Chavanel, who started the day just a fraction of a second behind Wiggins and had a chance of taking yellow. He too was blown away by Team Sky on the steep slopes - although somewhat later than Leipheimer - lost 2’24” on the day, and now trails Wiggins by 2’22”.

sylvain chavanel"I knew that it would not be easy to maintain my position today," said the former French champion. "The climb was really steep, it was perfect for the climbers. I'm not a real climber. I can defend myself on the mountains, but on different kind of parcours. Anyway, I'm satisfied about my race, and how I have interpreted the climb.

“It wasn't easy today."

The one Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider that did enjoy his day however, was Peter Velits’ twin brother Martin, who managed to get himself into the long breakaway of the stage. A less accomplished rider than Peter, Martin is riding his first ever Tour de France and, having survived the crashes of the first week, was able to strike out for himself today.

"We were there from the beginning, all of the guys that were supposed to try for the breakaway," he explained. "20 kilometers after the start we went through the town and I was in the front and I knew it was maybe a good moment. So I went behind I think [Orica-GreenEdge’s Michael] Albasini. I promoted the breakaway with Albasini. There were a couple of other guys behind us.

“We immediately had a gap, so we tried to pull everything to stay away,” he continued. “It was good. When we saw that they were catching us on the last climb, that they were behind, we didn't really go full gas anymore on the hill. But it was hard from the beginning.

“For me, though, it was special to be in the breakaway. It's not easy to make a break in the Tour, and it's my first time in the Tour."

Meanwhile, World time trial champion Tony Martin is nursing his fractured scaphoid bone through the race but, after sitting at the rear of the peloton with the other walking wounded from the opening week, the German is beginning to feel stronger.

"In the last days I finished at the back of the peloton watching the others," he said. "Today was the first time I was able to ride a little more to the front. I was waiting for this first test on the climb to see how my hand would react. It was hard and I had pain.

“I hope that tomorrow it will be better."

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