YOUTH MOVEMENT. A 24-year old German youth named Linus Gerdemann sped away from 15 escapees and out-climbed all the Tour favorites on the Category 1 Col de la Columbiere to win the first Alp mountain stage and claim the Yellow Jersey. It was Gerdemann's (T-Mobile) first stage win in the Tour de France. His only other professional stage win was in the Tour de Suisse in 2005, his rookie year as a pro. The Tour continues to surprise and create opportunities for emerging champions.
TOP CONTENDERS TOGETHER. The pre-race favorites all finished in a bunch together about four minutes after Gerdemann crossed the line. This group of 20 did not make it into the GC top ten, as I expected they would, but they distinguished themselves from the rest of the field as a select group out of which the eventual Tour champion will emerge. This group included Christophe Moreau (my sentimental favorite to win the race), Alejandro Valverde, Levi Leipheimer, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Iban Mayo, Michael Rasmussen, Frank Schleck, Yaroslav Popovych, Vladimir Gusev, and Vladimir Karpets.
Stage 7 wrap-up & complete results @ cyclingnews.com
SPRINTERS FALL BACK. As expected, all the sprinters fell out of the top ten in the General Classification today, including Fabian Cancellara, who preserved the Yellow Jersey for eight days. He will now work for his CSC teammates to keep their best climber in the hunt for a podium finish.
SORRY, GEORGE. One of my predictions for the day did not fare well. American George Hincapie fell behind the main group and is now officially considered out of contention for the Yellow Jersey. He will work to keep fellow American and Discovery Channel team member Levi Leipheimer's podium hopes alive. I hope George will still go for a stage win a bit later in the race.
COMEBACK KIDS. I'm impressed that Astana teammates Andreas Kloden and Alexandre Vinokourov have recovered from injuries suffered in big crashes a few days ago. I thought Kloden would be long gone and Vino limping along. But both finished in the main group today. Those of us who counted them out counted wrong.
TOUGHEST DAY (SO FAR) TOMORROW. Today was mild compared to tomorrow's stage. Today featured one Category 1 climb. Sunday's Stage 8 features three Category 1 climbs, including a mountain-top finish. Further distinction of the Tour contenders will be featured. It should be a very dramatic day in the Alps. I look for another shake up in the General Classification top 10. Those who made it into the top 10 based on their breakaway today will not likely be around at the finish of that monster stage. The serious contenders for Yellow Jersey and "King of the Mountains" contests will rise to the occasion.