Tour de France 2016: Steve Cummings solos to victory on stage seven

Briton delivers perfectly-executed ride to earn Dimension Data's fourth win in seven stages

Britain’s Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) soloed to victory on stage seven of the 2016 Tour de France, climbing the Col d’Aspin alone and descending superbly to win from the day’s breakaway.

After team-mate Mark Cavendish won three of the first six stages, Cummings continued the team’s winning streak with a perfectly-executed ride as the peloton hit the mountains for the first time.

Yellow jersey Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) also got into the day’s break, finishing fifth on the day to extend his overall lead – though the stage ended slightly farcically after the air bridge holding the flame rouge collapsed just as the peloton reached it, taking Britain’s Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) out.

Nothing could distract from a superb ride by Cummings, however, who has now won a stage at both of the last two Tours.

Steve Cummings soloed to victory on stage seven of the 2016 Tour de France – the win was Dimension Data’s fourth of the Tour, all courtesy of British riders (pic: Sirotti)

With a flat start to the day before the Col d’Aspin, there were plenty of riders keen to get in the day’s breakaway – Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), in the green jersey, and world champion Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) both getting in an early 12-man move.

The peloton set a rapid pace, however, just shy of 50km/h early in the race, and that move was quickly swallowed back up by the peloton.

An ever larger group went clear shortly afterwards, with yellow jersey van Avermaet opting to follow the move.

Of the 29 riders to go clear with little more than 100km still to race, Vasil Kiryienka (Team Sky), Gorka Izaguirre (Movistar) and Giro d’Italia champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) were all present, as were Cummings and time trial stars Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing).

The large group, generally, worked well together with those boasting numerical advantages putting riders in the wind, while Movistar and Team Sky – despite having riders in the break – leading the peloton.

The gap was more than five-and-a-half minutes at its maximum, before Kiryienka sat up to return to the bunch and the attacking started up front.

Nibali attacked on the Cote de Capvern to take the solitary climbing point on offer, and the Italian’s acceleration prompted more riders to try their luck off the front of the break too.

Matti Breschel (Cannondale), Antoine Duchesne (Direct Energie) and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) were the first to earn a gap, before Cummings bridged across.

Van Avermaet was part of an eight-strong counter-attack, which Nibali and team-mate Alexey Lutsenko also got into, but just as they were about to bridge across Cummings attacked.

The British rider was first through the intermediate sprint and got low over his handlebars in full time trial fashion with 25km to race.

Cummings’ lead was worth 30 seconds as he started climbing the Col d’Aspin but Nibali was a man on a mission beforehand, his injections of pace too hot for all but Navarro and Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange) to handle.

Van Avermaet briefly clung to the tails of the counter-attack but was cut adrift with 8km still to climb – taking a look down the mountain to try and catch a glimpse of the bunch when the switchbacks allowed it.

Still Cummings’ led, however, his lead back out to 36 seconds inside the final 6km of the climb and then 51 seconds with three kilometres left.

Nibali’s descending ability meant he remained a huge threat behind but Cummings continued to press on and force the advantage.

Cummings attacked on the run-in to the Col d’Aspin, increased his gap on the climb and sealed victory with a classy descent (pic: Sirotti)

Back in the peloton, Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Ag2r-La Mondiale) tried little accelerations but it was off the back where the real interest was – Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) in difficulty and losing contact.

After receiving a time check of more than a minute to Cummings, Navarro started working with Nibali but Cummings continued to fight through the throngs of fans on the approach to the summit.

Navarro’s efforts distanced Nibali, and the Spaniard – with Impey still just about in tow – pushed on but Cummings crested the climb with a sizable advantage.

In the peloton the attacks continued thick and fast, with white jersey Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) accelerating before the summit – the effort accounting for Barguil.

Cummings descended masterfully, however, and – despite several looks over his shoulder – had time to enhoy the finishing straight as he sealed the fourth Dimension Data win (all from British riders) of this year’s race so far.

The collapse of the air bridge meant a farcical finish to a great stage – and could have further-reaching consequences with Yates bloodied by his fall.

But nothing could deny Cummings his fourth solo victory of the season, and second career win at the Tour.

Tour de France 2016: stage seven – result

1) Steve Cummings (GBR) – Dimension Data – 3.51.58hrs
2) Daryl Impey (RSA) – Orica-BikeExchange +1.05
3) Daniel Navarro (ESP) – Cofidis – ST
4) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana +2.14
5) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing +3.04
6) Luis Mate (ESP) – Cofidis +4.29
7) Geraint Thomas (GBR) – Team Sky – ST
8) Wout Poels (NED) – Team Sky
9) Gorka Izaguirre (ESP) – Movistar
10) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar

General classification (provisional)

1) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing – 34.13.40hrs
2) Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) – Etixx-QuickStep +6.36
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +6.38
4) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +6.39
5) Chris Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +6.42
6) Nairo Quintana (COL) – Movistar – ST
7) Warren Barguil (FRA) – Giant-Alpecin
8) Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Cannondale
9) Daniel Martin (IRL) – Etixx-QuickStep
10) Fabio Aru (ITA) – Astana

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