The HTC-Highroad team was in was textbook form Friday in Stage 7 of the 2011 Tour de France, providing a perfect leadout for Mark Cavendish who held off Alessandro Petacchi with a sprint to the finish for the stage win. It is Cavenish's second win of this year's Tour, and his 17th career win.
On a flat, flat (and flat) stage that stretched 218 km (135 miles) from Le Mans to Châteauroux, it was team HTC-Highroad that did most of the day's work, setting it up for their sprinter Cavendish, the self-proclaimed fastest man in the world, and they did it perfectly. Over the final few kilometers leading up to the finish, HTC had their full nine-man lead-out train to deliver the Manx Missile to the win.
Thor Hushovd (Team Garmin-Cervelo) remains in the maillot jaune after Stage 7, but with Saturday bringing the Tour's highest point thus far, it's likely that the sprinter's time in the yellow jersey may soon be coming to an end. He's followed in the overall standings by Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team) and Frank Schleck (Team Leopard Trek).
Thursday's Stage 7, while very flat and very long, still managed to produce some wild results. Early on, former world champion Tom Boonen (Team Quick Step) dropped out of the Tour, suffering from lingering pain as a result of his crash two days ago.
Later, with about 38 km left in the stage, a huge crash split the peloton, forming a new chase group of about 100 riders that included Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner as Team Radioshack's terrible luck continued. American Tyler Farrar was also forced to play catch-up after getting caught in the crash.
But the crash's biggest victim claimed was podium-favorite Bradley Wiggins, who was immediately forced to end his Tour with a broken collarbone.
Saturday's State 8 brings the Tour 189 km from Aigurande to Super-Besse with a taste of the race's first real climbs, including a category 2 trek up the Col de la Croix Saint-Robert.