Eurosport - Sat, 10 Jul 16:37:00 2010
Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel won his second stage of the Tour de France to reclaim the leader's yellow jersey in the ski resort of Les Rousses.
The Quick Step rider won stage seven with a dramatic solo attack on the final climb of the day in the Jura mountains to seize the maillot jaune from Saxo Bank's Fabian Cancellara, who lost more 14 minutes after cracking on the decisive ascent, the second category Cote de Lamour.
In what was a remarkable day for both Quick Step and France, Chavanel's team-mate and compatriot Jerome Pineau consolidated his lead in the King of the Mountains classification by taking maximum points over five of the day's six peaks.
Chavanel, who led the race for one day in the opening week, now leads Australia’s Cadel Evans (BMC) by 1 minute and 25 seconds in the overall standings, with Canadian Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions) third at 1:32.
The 165.5 kilometre stage from Tournus into the Jura mountains was brought alive by an early break by the polka-dot jersey Pineau, who attacked early on with four other riders.
Under fierce sun and in temperatures that rose to a sweltering 34 degrees centigrade, the leading quintet had built up a solid gap of 8:30 by the time they reached the first test of the day, the third category Cote de l'Aubepin.
A pattern soon emerged, with Pineau being allowed by his companions to take maximum points over all the summits. Meanwhile, the group's lead was being whittled down to below the three-minute mark.
On the start of the penultimate climb of the day, the second category Col de la Croix de la Serra, the race burst into life when Thomas Voeckler of Bbox Bouygues initiated an attack from the peloton, taking a handful of riders with him, including Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Juan Manuel Garate (Rabobank) and team-mate Cyril Gautier.
Chavanel was not part of the initial attack, but soon launched himself from the peloton in pursuit of the chasing group, which he joined just ahead of the summit.
Back in the bunch, yellow jersey Cancellara was yo-yoing on and off the back, clearly suffering from the heat and his exertions during a gruelling opening week's racing.
Chavanel, who took the yellow jersey from the Swiss in Spa after a majestic performance in the Ardennes in stage two last Monday, launched an attack on the final descent at the exact same moment team-mate Pineau dropped his only remaining escapee, Lampre's Danilo Hondo.
It wasn't long before Chavanel had caught Hondo and, clearly in the form of his life, he soon passed Pineau with 14 kilometres left to ride.
Footon-Servetto's Rafael Valls Ferri attacked from the Voeckler group but was never able to make up the ground on Chavanel, who crossed the line in Les Rousses 57 seconds ahead of the Spaniard. Garate was a further 30 seconds back before Voeckler led the remaining escapees over the line at 1:40, with the slim-lined peloton just seven seconds behind.
It was a remarkable second stage win in six days for the 31-year-old, victim of a fractured skull earlier in the season after a nasty crash with a car during the one-day Liege-Bastogne-Liege spring classic.
With Cancellara dropping even further back on the final climb, Chavanel deservedly moved back to the top of the general classification. The Frenchman had previously gifted the yellow jersey back to Cancellara after just one day last week when he punctured twice on the cobbles in stage three to Arenburg.
"This is the best day in my career," said Chavanel. "The other day I won the stage and the jersey, but everyone said I wouldn't have won. Today I wanted to prove I can win a stage in this Tour without any questions. I saw an opportunity and the legs felt great. I am really happy."
Race favourites Alberto Contador (Astana), Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) and Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) all finished safely in the main bunch alongside Evans and Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana). All are likely to contend a grandstand finish in the Alpine resort of Morzine/Avoriaz in Sunday's demanding 189km stage eight.