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

Ferdy Kuebler, 1950 Tour de France champion, dies at 97

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LONDON — Ferdy Kuebler, who came back from injury and the interruption of World War II to win the 1950 Tour de France, has died. He was 97.

The Swiss won an epic battle with French rider Louison Bobet in the 1950 race, and became world champion the following year.

Andre Haefliger, the chief reporter at Swiss magazine Schweizer Illustrierte, said from Kuebler’s home in Switzerland on Friday that he could confirm the death on behalf of Kuebler’s widow, Christina. Kuebler died Thursday at a Zurich hospital. He had been suffering from a cold.

Switzerland’s national cycling association, Swiss Cycling, paid tribute to Kuebler and offered its condolences to his family. “We are taking leave of one of the greatest cycling legends of our time,” it wrote on its website.

For many, his biggest achievement was winning the Fleche Wallonne and Liege-Bastogne-Liege races, then held on successive days, in both 1951 and 1952.

In an era of marathon races on poor roads, Kuebler also won the 1953 Bordeaux-to-Paris after 570 kilometers (356 miles) and more than 14 hours in the saddle.

Born July 24, 1919, into a poverty-stricken family near Zurich, Kuebler knew as a child that he wanted to be a professional cyclist.

Forced as a teenager to find work to support his family, he got a job delivering bread by bicycle.

“I had to climb the mountain up to four times a day. That was how I trained for my career. I told myself: one day you will be a cyclist,” Kuebler said in a 2003 television documentary.

Later, as a Zurich office worker, Kuebler cycled the 100-kilometer (63-mile) round trip from home.

World War II broke out as he was starting to make his name as a cyclist. Kuebler was drafted into the Swiss army.

“I lost five or six of my best years,” he said.

An accident in 1946 that hospitalized him for two months almost ended his postwar career.

He came back in 1947 and started his first Tour, aged 28. He won the first stage, becoming the first post-war wearer of the famed yellow jersey.

In 1950, third-placed Kuebler took over the race lead when Italy’s team of riders withdrew, accusing spectators of assaulting them.

He finished the 4,773 kilometers (2,983 miles) 9 minutes, 30 seconds ahead of Belgium’s Stan Ockers, with Bobet third.

Kuebler chose not to race another Tour until 1954. He finished second, behind Bobet.

After retiring at age 38, Kuebler trained as a ski instructor and worked on the Swiss slopes for 25 winters. In summer he did publicity for the Tour de Suisse and traveled with the race as an official for 35 years.

Kuebler said there was never any other career for him except cycling.

“I always said if I came back to earth – which I hope will happen – I would be a cyclist again,” he said.

New Zealanders join Lance Armstrong in early morning ride

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Several hundred cyclists turned out Tuesday for an early morning ride with Lance Armstrong, who is in New Zealand to film a commercial for a local brewery.

Armstrong issued an invitation by social media to join him cycling around Auckland’s waterfront and a crowd estimated at up to 1,000 turned out.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life from cycling in 2013 after admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career.

Armstrong told the New Zealand Herald newspaper that he was glad to know he still has some support.

New Zealand’s Lion Breweries has confirmed it brought the 45-year-old Texan to New Zealand. In an internal staff email, the brewer said “we are using Lance to tell a cautionary tale called `The Consequence’, which depicts how much you stand to lose when you pursue success at all costs.”

“We wanted to highlight that actions have consequences and we couldn’t think of anyone better to demonstrate that than Lance,” the email said.

Armstrong arrived in Auckland on Sunday from Houston, telling reporters he is in New Zealand on business but has bought his bike and golf clubs.

He took part in a ride later that day with a small group including New Zealand Ironman triathlon champion Cameron Brown.