Cummings wins Tour stage as inflatable device blocks riders

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LAC DE PAYOLLE, France (AP) British rider Steve Cummings won the Tour de France seventh stage which came to a bizarre end when an inflatable arch marking the final kilometer collapsed on Friday.

Adam Yates, a British rider with the Orica team, was hit by the arch and reached the finish with a bloodied chin.

“He was alone when it happened. He could not brake and did a somersault and fell on his face,” Orica sports director Laurenzo Lapage said. “The doctor is seeing him now. His shoulder is aching.”

Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium, who was in a breakaway with Cummings, held on to the yellow jersey he claimed two days earlier.

Overall favorites Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana finished in the main pack during the first stage in the Pyrenees.

Froome, Quintana, and other riders had to lift the arch – known as the “flamme rouge” for the red flag it holds – off the ground and slip their bikes underneath it.

Organizers said they would take finishing times three kilometers from the finish of the 162.5-kilometer (101-mile) leg from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle.

“It won’t make a big difference because there was a downhill and flat portion before the finish,” said Thierry Gouvenou, the Tour technical director. “It was a major incident, but we have the means to deal with it.”

Daryl Impey of South Africa finished second and Daniel Navarro of Spain crossed third, each 65 seconds behind Cummings. However, it wasn’t immediately clear what times they would be given.

In the overall, Van Avermaet leads Julian Alaphilippe by 6:36, with Alejandro Valverde third, 6:38 back.

“I did not plan to be in a breakaway,” Van Avermaet said. “I’m not a good climber, I’m a classic rider, and the big favorites did not see me as a threat. Tomorrow, it will be too difficult with all the climbs, but I’m happy I spent an extra day in the yellow jersey.”

Thibaut Pinot, considered one of the top French contenders, was dropped on the Aspin.

All 198 riders started the stage, marking the first time the entire peloton was still racing this late in the Tour in 103 editions.

The Aspin, which was included in the Tour for the 73rd time, was affronted from its longer southern slope, 12 kilometers at an average gradient of 6.5 percent.

Fresh off his third stage win a day earlier, Mark Cavendish was involved in an early breakaway along with world champion Peter Sagan.

After the Cavendish-Sagan group was caught by the peloton, a 29-man pack featuring Van Avermaet and 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali established a more dangerous lead of five minutes.

However, it was Cummings who attacked first and he rode solo over the summit and maintained a comfortable lead on the ensuing high-speed descent and slight rise to the finish in Lac de Payolle.

Cummings shook his head in disbelief as he approached the line then raised both arms, pumped his fist, and kissed his wrist.

Cummings, a teammate of Mark Cavendish on Team Dimension Data, also won a stage in last year’s Tour.

When the main pack reached the line 4 1/2 minutes later, Quintana and Froome were seen patting each other on the back and talking to each other, likely about the incident with the inflatable device.

The Tour remains in the Pyrenees for the next two days.

Stage 8 on Saturday is a much more challenging 184-kilometer (114-mile) leg from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon featuring four serious climbs, beginning with the Col du Tourmalet, which is so difficult it’s labeled “beyond classification.”

AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf

Little boy goes wild watching dad in Tour de France

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Bauke Mollema wasn’t the only one putting on a show at the Tour de France.

Mollema received plenty of support back home as his son went absolutely crazy watching his “papa” push to victory in Stage 15. As it is with siblings, Mollema’s oldest son, Julian, was forced to share the spot light as Thomas got emotional watching his dad finally earn a coveted stage win.

Amidst the blood, sweat and tears that have made up the 2017 Tour de France, Mollema’s adorable 2-year-old son, Thomas gave the internet something to smile about.

The Tour de France has “always been the most important race for [Mollema]” and his dreams came true when he had an impressive break away to solidify the first stage win of his career.

Clearly, Mollema was not the only one excited for his first victory.

 

Cavendish involved in nasty crash after elbow from Sagan

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VITTEL, France (AP) A nasty crash involving Mark Cavendish marred Tuesday’s fourth stage of the Tour de France, which was won by France’s Arnaud Demare in a chaotic sprint finish.

Replays appeared to show world champion Peter Sagan elbowing Cavendish, who was squeezed against the barriers to his right, out of the way. Cavendish slammed into the barriers and two other riders plowed over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Sagan, who crossed the line second, was later given a 30-second penalty that relegated him to 115th place on the stage. As a result, he dropped from second place in the overall standings to 15th.

“I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get … if he came across is one thing, but the elbow. I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that,” Cavendish said.

“A crash is a crash, I’d just like to know about the elbow, really,” Cavendish added. “I’d just like to speak to him about it.”

After the crash, Sagan went over to see how Cavendish was and patted him on the back, while the British rider showed him his wounds.

The Slovak said later he had apologized to Cavendish.

“It’s not nice to crash like that,” Sagan said.

“It’s the sprint. I just didn’t know that Mark is behind me, he’s coming from the right side,” Sagan added. “Mark was coming pretty fast from the back and after I just didn’t have time to react, to go left, and he just came (into) me and after into the fence.”

A medical team quickly ran out to treat Cavendish, jogging into the oncoming stream of riders to reach him.

When Cavendish was finally helped to his feet, his jersey was badly torn and blood was streaking down his side. Cavendish rode in with a teammate after treatment, gingerly holding his right arm close to his body, with his right hand in a bandage.

It’s already been a difficult year for Cavendish, who came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April.

Demare’s sprint victory ended a long wait for the home fans, with the previous French victory in a bunch sprint at the Tour being won by Jimmy Casper in Stage 1 in Strasbourg in 2006.

“It’s extraordinary, it’s marvelous,” said Demare, the French champion who finished second to Marcel Kittel in the mass sprint that concluded Stage 2.

There was another crash earlier that delayed Tour leader Geraint Thomas, but the Welshman retained the yellow jersey since it happened in the neutral zone near the stage finish.

Thomas leads Sky teammate and three-time champion Chris Froome by 12 seconds, with third-place Michael Matthews of Australia also 12 seconds back. Sagan is now 43 seconds adrift.

Thomas scraped his knee but said it was OK.

“I hit the deck but I’m fine,” Thomas said.

Demare clocked nearly five hours over the largely flat 207.5-kilometer (129-mile) route, which started and finished in two spa towns, Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg and Vittel in France.

“We’ve been working with Arnaud for a long time on sprints,” said Marc Madiot, manager of Demare’s FDJ team. “Winning in the Tour is the best.”

After Sagan’s penalty, Alexander Kristoff moved up to second place in the stage, with Andre Greipel in third.

After starting in Mondorf, the hometown of 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck, one of the first towns along the route was Schengen, where an agreement was signed in 1985 that enabled passport-free travel in mainland Europe.

Then it was a long, fairly straight slog through fields of grain, passing near the medieval city of Nancy into Vittel, home of the official mineral water supplier for the Tour.

It was the race’s third consecutive stage of more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) and when Guillaume van Keirsbulck, a Belgian with the Wanty team, attacked from the starting gun there was no reaction from the pack.

Van Keirsbulck quickly built a lead of more than seven minutes before being caught with less than 17 kilometers to go.

“A really hard day,” Van Keirsbulck said. “It’s not easy to stay in the front.”

Stage 5 on Wednesday concludes with the first serious climb of the Tour. The 160.5-kilometer (100-mile) leg begins in Vittel and winds its way to La Planche Des Belles Filles with a short but steep finishing ascent that features a leg-breaking 20-percent gradient in the final meters. All of the overall favorites should swing into action.