Stage seven photo gallery>>

Stage seven of the Tour de France was expected to be a transfer stage through the Massif Central towards the Pyrenees but constant climbing, a strong wind and crashes created some tough and aggressive racing all the way to the finish.

Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d?Epargne) emerged to win the 159km stage. The 25 year-old Spaniard was part of a late attack and even when the move was caught he jumped away again four kilometres from the finish and surprised the rest of the peloton.

Sanchez flew down the final descent to the finish, ignoring the dangers of the rough and wet roads to hold off the chasing bunch. He pointed to the sky as he crossed the line and even had time to look back to the riders sprinting for second place behind him. It was his first ever stage victory at the Tour de France.

Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) made sure he finished second, six seconds behind Sanchez, Filippo Pozzato (Liquigas) was third and race leader Kim Kirchen (Columbia) was fourth. Kirchen kept the lead and very little changed overall but everybody was tired after what was the most aggressive and demanding stage of the Tour so far.

Big losers included Damiano Cunego (Lampre) who was dropped after crashing during the stage and then again near the finish on the steep Saint-Jean-de-Donne climb. Cunego lost 27 seconds to his main rivals and is now 17th at 2-09.

David Millar (Garmin) finished in the same group as Cunego and so slipped to seventh overall at 1-14. Chris Froome (Barloworld) was 125th at 37-17 and Mark Cavendish (Columbia) also survived the demanding stage, finishing 148th at 45-15.

THE EARLY ACTION

The racing yet again began early on the stage, with Millar in the early move and the first over the Fraisse climb after just 11km.

He was never going to be allowed to gain massive amounts of time but along with Jens Voigt (CSC-Saxo Bank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Benoit Vaugrenard (FdJ), Xavier Florencio (Bouygues Telecom) and Ronny Scholz (Gerolsteiner), the move gained 30 seconds and inspired some hard early racing.

Things got even harder after 61km when a crash split the bunch leaving most of the favourites up front but Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Stijn Devolder (Quick Step) and Christophe Moreau (Agritubel) behind.

The front group were busy chasing the Millar break and so did not stop for Cunego and a pursuit match began with CSC leading the charge and Lampre and Quick Step leading the chase. The gap stretched to more than 30 seconds and it looked like the elastic might snap but luckily for Cunego the leaders eased a little and Lampre and Quick Step gave it everything and the race eventually came back together after 30km of chasing.

However Cunego had been put on the ropes and would pay for it later, while it all proved too much for Moreau. He has been best Frenchman in the Tour for years but threw in the towel when he was dropped from the Cunego group and quickly climbed off. His Tour was over and at 37, so could be his career.

Columbia tried to keep the bunch under control as the Pas de Peyrol approached in the mist but the twisting road and short climbs were a perfect place to attack and Josep Jufre (Saunier Duval), Luis Leon Sanchez (Caisse d’Epargne), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas), David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval) quickly got away and made it over the Peyrol.

De La Fuente lost contact after almost crashing on a corner on the fast descent off the Puy Mary but got back before for the final Saint-Jean-de-Donne climb. They move was eventually caught near the top but then Sanchez went again and everybody seemed happy to let him go after four hours of none-stop action-packed racing.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE 7 RESULTS

1 Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 159km in 3h 52m 53secs


2 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 6secs

3. Filippo Pozzato (Ita) Liquigas

4. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia

5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

6. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne

7. Samuel Sanchez (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi

8. Josep Jufre (Spa) Saunier Duval)

9. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle

10. Andy Schleck (Lux) CSC-Saxo Bank all at same time.

British

50. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 33secs

145. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 21m 53secs

148. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at same time.

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE 7

1. Kim Kirchen (Lux) Columbia in 28h 23m 40secs


2. Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence-Lotto at 6secs

3. Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner at 16secs

4. Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin-Chipotle at 44secs

5. Denis Mechov (Rus) Rabobank at 1m 3secs

6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Espargne at 1m 12secs

7. David Millar (GB) Garmin-Chipotle at 1m 14secs

8. Stijn Devolder (Bel) Quick Step at 1m 21secs

9. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne at 1m 21secs

10. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia at 1m 21secs

British

125. Chris Froome (GB) Barloworld at 37m 27secs

148. Mark Cavendish (GB) Columbia at 45m 15secs

POINTS COMPETITION

1. Oscar Freire (Spa) Rabobank

KING OF THE MOUNTAINS COMPETITION

1. David De La Fuente (Spa) Saunier Duval

YOUNG RIDER COMPETITION

1. Thomas Lovkvist (Swe) Columbia

Tour de France 2008Garmin are number one! David Millar at the start of stage 7

Tour de France 2008Mark Cavendish rolls to the stage start in Brioude

Photos by Luc Claessen

Tour de France 2008David Millar took part in an early escape before puncturing

Tour de France 2008Fabian Cancellara takes the helm

Tour de France 2008… Then it’s Columbia’s turn to chase the escape

Tour de France 2008Josep Jufre has a dig

Tour de France 2008Kim Kirchen: fourth on stage, still in the lead

Tour de France 2008Luis Sanchez wins his first ever Tour stage

Tour de France 2008Thor Hushovd, Oscar Freire and Erik Zabel lead the second group home

Photos by Graham Watson

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

News and features>>

All the riders (start list, list of abandons)>>

Tour 2008: Day by day summary

Route & stages>>

Teams and riders>>

About the Tour>>