Tour set for gru­elling moun­tain stages


Af­ter a stage de­cided by mil­lime­tres and sprint­ers, it’s time to see some sig­nif­i­cant gaps be­tween the lead­ers in the Tour de France.

The race heads into the moun­tains this week­end, and yel­low-jersey holder Chris Froome is look­ing for­ward to tak­ing mea­sure of his chal­lengers.

“This week­end, we will see ex­actly where ev­ery­one’s at,” Froome said, ex­plain­ing that the top 10 rid­ers are still too close to­gether for him to clearly iden­tify one sole ri­val.

Stage 8 from Dole on Satur­day fin­ishes at the Rousses ski sta­tion in the Jura Range, close to the bor­der with Switzer­land. Three climbs on the 187.5-kilo­me­tre route will serve as a warm-up for the ex­tremely tough Stage 9 in the Alps on Sun­day, which has seven climbs, in­clud­ing three with the “hors cat­e­gorie,” or be­yond rat­ing.

The last climb on Satur­day “could shake things up a bit,” Froome said.

“The big­ger ob­sta­cles will come on Sun­day. It should be a big week­end of rac­ing. That’s what we spend all sea­son train­ing for.”

Froome re­mained 12 sec­onds ahead of Sky team­mate Geraint Thomas and 14 sec­onds ahead of Stage 5 win­ner Fabio Aru of Italy.

Dan Martin of Ire­land was fourth, 25 sec­onds be­hind, and Froome’s for­mer team­mate, Richie Porte, was fifth at 39 sec­onds back.

Back down in the flats on Fri­day, the wine-themed Stage 7 was won by Mar­cel Kit­tel in a photo fin­ish. The Ger­man made his move nearly too late and edged Ed­vald Boas­son Ha­gen of Nor­way by six mil­lime­tres to win his third stage of the race, and sec­ond in two days.

It was Kit­tel’s 12th ca­reer win in the Tour, ty­ing him with Erik Za­bel for the Ger­man record.

Kit­tel clocked slightly more than five hours over the mostly flat 213.5kilo­me­tre leg from Troyes in cham­pagne coun­try to Nuits-Saint-Ge­orges in the heart of the Bur­gundy wine­mak­ing re­gion.

Boas­son Ha­gen took over the lead­er­ship du­ties at Team Di­men­sion Data af­ter Mark Cavendish aban­doned the race with a bro­ken shoul­der this week. World cham­pion Peter Sa­gan was dis­qual­i­fied from the Tour for caus­ing Cavendish’s high-speed crash.

The vic­tory helped Kit­tel take the green points jersey from French na­tional cham­pion Ar­naud De­mare, who fin­ished 11th.

Kit­tel is aim­ing to wear green all the way to the fin­ish in Paris on July 23.

Sa­gan won the green jersey in the past five Tours.

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