LES ROUSSES, France – Lance Armstrong said it was hot. Andy Schleck said it was hot.
It was hot in the Alps on Saturday, 95 degrees or so, hot enough to make the pavement melt in some places. Armstrong said he had wished for rain during Stage 7 of the Tour de France, and it did rain and thunder and lightning and hail – an hour after the cyclists made it onto their buses.
And for one more day the Tour de France general classification contenders, the guys who want to wear the yellow jersey in Paris on July 25, pedaled hard, watched one another closely and held back attacks.
It was left to Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel to win his second stage of the Tour and take over the leader’s spot. As expected, all the overall contenders – Armstrong, Schleck, Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans – neither gained nor lost time against one another.
Chavanel finished the 103-mile trip from Tournus to Station des Rousses, a ski stop in the seasons when it’s not hot enough to melt the road, in 4 hours, 22.52 minutes. If there was a disappointed member of the contenders’ group, it might have been BMC Racing’s Evans, the Australian who finished second at the Tour in 2007.
Evans moved to second overall, 1:25 behind Chavanel, but Schleck said, “I expected Cadel to get the (yellow) jersey.”
Schleck is in fourth place overall, 1:55 behind Chavanel; Contador of Astana is sixth, 2:26 behind; and seven-time champion Armstrong is 14th, 3:16 behind Chavanel. The Spaniard Contador is still considered the biggest favorite.
Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee finished 22:17 back and fell to 170th place overall.
Several riders predict that Astana and Contador will mount some sort of attack in today’s much more difficult stage from Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz. There are five rated climbs and the day will offer a chance for overall hopefuls to test both themselves and the others.
“I’m pretty sure we’ll see Contador attacking,” Schleck said. “Honestly, today wasn’t going to decide anything, but to be honest I didn’t expect it to be this hot. It was really, really hot. That was something I didn’t expect.”