Alberto Contador stamped his authority on the Tour de France when he left Lance Armstrong trailing in his wake following a bold,morale-sapping attack in the final ascent of the seventh stage on Friday. Spaniard Contador made his move with some two kilometres remaining in the 10.6 km climb to Arcalis and seven-time champion Armstrong could not keep up the pace.
Frances Brice Feillu snatched a solo victory in the 224-km stage from Barcelona ahead of compatriot Christophe Kern and German Johannes Froehlinger. Contador is now second in the overall standings,six seconds adrift of Italys Rinaldo Nocentini,who took the yellow jersey from Swiss Fabian Cancellara after being part of a nine-man breakaway. Armstrong,who started the day level on time with Cancellara,is third,two seconds behind his Astana team mate and rival. There was no real plan,it (the attack) was not really expected but not surprising, Armstrong told reporters. I feel quite good but it was not a steep climb.
However,he would not concede defeat to Contador,whose performance showed he can now demand to be Astanas sole leader. There is still a long way to go, Armstrong said,although he left the door ajar to Contador,adding: Like I said all along,I have to think about the team. I feel pretty good. Things did not quite go according to the plan set earlier today but it was a fine day overall.
The question on everybody’s lips at the start of the stage was whether Armstrong would claim the yellow jersey he last wore on the Champs-Elysees in 2005 before retiring. For a long time on Friday,it seemed he would fulfil his dream as the favourites’ group perfectly chased the nine-man breakaway. Australian Cadel Evans,twice a Tour runner-up,was the first to try his luck but the Astana team did not let him go. When Contador powered ahead without giving notice,the favourites were left stuck on the tar and the Spaniard accelerated twice more to discourage them from trying to catch him.