Froome stays out of trou­ble to lead Tour de France

Cavendish wins sev­enth stage

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - FOUGERES, FRANCE

Stay­ing in front has meant stay­ing out of trou­ble so far for Chris Froome at the Tour de France.

Af­ter a crash-marred first week of the race, the 2013 cham­pion is ex­actly in the po­si­tion he wants to be _ healthy and wear­ing the yel­low jersey.

The Bri­tish rider’s ti­tle de­fence ended early last year, when he fell three times in two days and, bat­tered and bruised, went out of the Tour on stage 5. This year, he has avoided all three big crashes so far af­ter mak­ing up his mind to push ahead of any po­ten­tial dan­gers.

“Given what hap­pened last year, it was a big goal for me men­tally rather than phys­i­cally to ar­rive with the at­ti­tude that I’m here to ride at the front of the race,’’ Froome said af­ter Fri­day’s sev­enth stage. “We’ve been proac­tive in do­ing more work than nor­mal in or­der to try and stay safe.’’

Mark Cavendish won a sprint fin­ish Fri­day for his 26th ca­reer Tour stage vic­tory _ his first since 2013 af­ter also crash­ing out last year. He ded­i­cated his win to his Etixx-Quick Step team­mate Tony Martin, who broke a col­lar­bone in a crash in Thurs­day’s sixth stage, forc­ing him to with­draw while wear­ing the race leader’s yel­low jersey.

Froome in­her­ited the lead, but did not wear the yel­low jersey dur­ing stage 7 as a mark of re­spect for Martin.

“It wasn’t ideal to get the yel­low in this way,’’ Froome said.

With the tough moun­tain stages still to come _ start­ing with the Pyre­nees next week _ Froome is in a strong po­si­tion. He leads two-time Tour cham­pion Al­berto Con­ta­dor by 36 sec­onds, de­fend­ing cham­pion Vin­cenzo Nibali by 1:38 and Nairo Quin­tana, the 2013 run­ner-up, by 1:56. Amer­i­can rider Te­jay Van Garderen, a strong climber with a best over­all Tour fin­ish of fifth place, is shap­ing up as a dan­ger­ous out­sider.

“He’s rid­den re­ally well this first week,’’ Froome said. “Quin­tana’s lost a lot of time al­ready, that’s a big blow for him but I do ex­pect him to be up there in the moun­tains.’’

Mean­while, the race was hit by its first dop­ing case as Ital­ian rider Luca Paolini was thrown out af­ter test­ing pos­i­tive for co­caine on July 7, the day of the fourth stage, Cy­cling’s gov­ern­ing body said.

The Ka­tusha rider can re­quest a “B’’ sam­ple to be tested. In ac­cor­dance with UCI anti-dop­ing rules, Paolini has been pro­vi­sion­ally sus­pended. In March, the one-day clas­sics spe­cial­ist posted his first vic­tory in nearly two years to win Gent-Wevel­gem.

On a roast­ing hot af­ter­noon, Cavendish timed his at­tack to per­fec­tion to catch Ger­man sprinter An­dre Greipel near the line. Only Eddy Mer­ckx with 34 stage wins and Bernard Hin­ault with 28 have won more Tour stages than Cavendish.

“I’m re­ally happy now, two years af­ter my last podium,’’ Cavendish said. “I just waited a lit­tle longer so I could use my speed at the end.’’

Stage 7 started from Li­varot — a town in the Nor­mandy re­gion — and ended 190.5 kilo­me­tres (118 miles) later in Fougeres, nes­tled in the Brit­tany re­gion.

Con­ta­dor fell off his bike be­fore the start line but got back on to take the start and was un­harmed.

Within two min­utes of the stage start, five riders broke away.

Eritrean rider Daniel Tek­le­haimanot, wear­ing the best climber’s polka dot jersey, was joined by French­men An­thony De­laplace and Brice Feillu, Croa­t­ian Kristjian Durasek and Spa­niard Luis An­gel Mate. Af­ter those five were caught, the pelo­ton eased up and let the sprint­ers go.

“Ev­ery­one started to re­lax just a lit­tle bit more. It’s a nice feel­ing ac­tu­ally; it’s been such a crazy week,’’ Froome said. “It was amaz­ing to look around to see how many peo­ple are wear­ing ban­dages and bleed­ing through their shorts.’’

AP PHOTO

Bri­tain’s Christo­pher Froome, wear­ing the over­all leader's yel­low jersey, cel­e­brates on the podium of the sev­enth stage of the Tour de France cy­cling race over 190.5 kilo­me­ters (118.4 miles) with start in Li­varot and fin­ish in Fougeres, France, Fri­day.

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