Feillu triumphs in Andorra
Brice Feillu claimed a solo victory in the mountains of Andorra as Alberto Contador laid down a marker to the leading contenders.
Last Updated: 11/07/09 5:10pm
Young French rider Brice Feillu won stage seven of the Tour de France while the race for overall victory sparked into life behind him.
Italian rider Rinaldo Nocentini, who trailed breakaway companion Feillu home in fourth place, took the yellow jersey just ahead of a charging Alberto Contador.
Feillu, a 23-year-old riding for the small Agritubel team, broke away early in the stage with several others and the peloton did not seem interested in chasing them down.
The group was left to fight for the stage win amongst themselves on the final climb to Arcalis, in Andorra, with Feillu making the decisive move in the closing kilometres.
Meanwhile, Contador asserted his dominance on the Tour, pulling away from the fracturing peloton with an impressive acceleration over the steep gradients.
The Spaniard missed out on yellow by six seconds but his attack was enough to move him into second place in the standings, marginally ahead of Astana team-mate Lance Armstrong.
The seven-time winner finished in an elite group of climbers that contained, amongst others, 2008 champion Carlos Sastre, Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans and Britain's Bradley Wiggins.
Wiggins, a double Olympic pursuit gold medallist on the track, exhibited climbing skills so far unseen in his career to move up to fifth place in the overall standings.
Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel revealed that he had not given Contador the instruction to attack, saying that their planned tactics were to wait for someone else to make the move.
"Our second strategy was just to set the tempo and wait for the attacks. I thought a rider like Sastre, Evans or Schleck might attack," he said.
"But I think the wind was a factor. In the end it was good for us because it allowed us to keep the team more or less together."
Armstrong appeared to be somewhat surprised by Contador's aggression but admitted he was still in good shape after the first serious climb of the tour.
"Maybe Alberto did not go to the plan but I did not expect him to go by the plan," he said. "It was a bit of a surprise but I wasn't surprised.
"Like I always said, there is still a long way to go. Like I said all along, I have to think about the team.
"Overall I feel pretty good, I'm not as knackered as I thought I would be. Things did not quite go according to the plan set earlier today but it was a fine day overall."
Fabian Cancellara was forced to relinquish the yellow jersey he has held since stage one as he was not able to drag his powerhouse frame up the final climb with the leaders.
The sprinters took it easy on the first mountain stage but green jersey leader Mark Cavendish and former multiple stage winner Tom Boonen overcame a minor crash in the peloton to make it safely home.
Stage seven result:
1 Brice Feillu (France/Agritubel) 6h 11m 31secs
2 Christophe Kern (France/Cofidis) +5secs
3 Johannes Froehlinger (Germany/Milram) +25
4 Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy/AG2R) +26
5 Egoi Martinez (Spain/Euskaltel) +45
6 Christophe Riblon (France/AG2R) +1:05
7 Jerome Pineau (France/Quick-Step) +2:32
8 Jose Ivan Gutierrez (Spain/Caisse d'Epargne) +3:14
9 Alberto Contador (Spain/Astana) +3:26
10 Cadel Evans (Australia/Silence-Lotto) +3:47
1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy/AG2R) 25h 44m 32secs
2 Alberto Contador (Spain/Astana) +6
3 Lance Armstrong (U.S./Astana) +8
4 Levi Leipheimer (U.S./Astana) +39
5 Bradley Wiggins (Britain/Garmin) +46