- cycling - sport - Tour de France
Spanish rider Luis León Sánchez of the Caisse d'Epargne team won a dramatic 7th stage of the Tour de France, a 159 kilometres ride from Brioude here on Friday.
Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen retained the overall leader's yellow jersey, six seconds ahead of Australian Cadel Evans.
A tumultuous stage saw a number of retirements and crashes including former French champion Christophe Moreau, who was fourth overall in the 2001 edition.
Sánchez was hugely aided by team-mate Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion after Floyd Landis was disqualified for doping, and was able to celebrate metres from the finish punching the air in delight while the first chasing peloton failed to get to him.
A disciplined start to the second day in the medium mountains eventually gave way to a thrilling day of tactical racing once Scotland's David Millar was eventually reeled in by the chasing bunch.
The peloton seemed in no mood to allow escapes to go early on but Millar, of the Garmin team, attacked one kilometre from the summit of the category four climb at Villedieu and eventually found gimself with company.
A four-man break formed but because Millar began the stage in fifth overall at just 47secs behind Kirchen, he was never going to be given much rein.
A 24sec lead on the chasing bunch was quickly reduced after several teams joined Kirchen and his Columbia team in upping the pace.
The quartet were caught minutes later, and a solo attack by Sánchez soon gave way to a mass acceleration by the CSC team of yellow jersey hopeful Carlos Sastre.
Italian Damiano Cunego fell victim to a crash, although it was unclear whether CSC's move - which caused mayhem and left several bunches in their trail trying to hang on - was a consequence of the Lampre rider falling.
Around 25 riders - including all the yellow jersey favourites - were in front as CSC forced the pace, however they were soon joined by a larger group with 70km and three of the day's most difficult climbs to race.
Sánchez then launched his second big attack of the day on the lower slopes of the Col d'Entremont, prompting fellow Spaniard Josep Jufre Pou of Saunier Duval to follow.
The pair were joined by David de la Fuente and Vincenzo Nibali of Liquigas and they went over the summit of the category two Pas de Peyrol with a lead of 1min 30sec on the peloton.
The descent, however, proved far trickier. De la Fuente's downhill skills were exposed as he was forced to brake on the humid roads on several occasions while approaching tight corners.
He finally caught up with the leading trio and with 20km to the finish they held a lead of one minute on the peloton but in the end Sánchez was the only one capable of holding on.
1. Luis León Sánchez (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne ) 3 hrs 52 mins 53 secs
2. Stefan Schumacher (Germany / Gerolsteiner ) +6 secs
3. Filippo Pozzato (Italy / Liquigas ) "
4. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg / Columbia ) "
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne ) "
6. Oscar Pereiro (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne ) "
7. Samuel Sanchez (Spain / Euskaltel ) "
8. Josep Jufre Pou (Spain / Saunier Duval ) "
9. Christian Vandevelde (U.S. / Garmin - Chipotle ) "
10. Andy Schleck (Luxembourg / Team CSC ) all same time
1. Kim Kirchen (Luxembourg / Columbia ) 28 hrs 23 mins 40 secs
2. Cadel Evans (Australia / Silence - Lotto ) +6 secs
3. Stefan Schumacher (Germany / Gerolsteiner ) +16"
4. Christian Vandevelde (U.S. / Garmin - Chipotle ) +44"
5. Denis Menchov (Russia / Rabobank ) +1:03"
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne ) +1:12"
7. David Millar (Britain / Garmin - Chipotle ) +1:14"
8. Stijn Devolder (Belgium / Quick-Step ) +1:21"
9. Oscar Pereiro (Spain / Caisse d'Epargne ) "
10. Thomas Lovkvist (Sweden / Columbia ) all same time