Rinaldo Nocentini claimed the yellow jersey on a day race favorite Alberto Contador flexed his muscles in the Tour de France's first mountain stage.
France's Brice Feillu won stage seven, a 224km hike from Barcelona to Andorra, but it is what went on just behind the gutsy Agritubel rider that will grab the headlines as Contador asserted his authority as Astana team leader ahead of team-mate Lance Armstrong, the record seven-time Tour winner.
AG2R La Mondiale's Nocentini, part of a nine-man breakaway group which included Feillu and led the field almost all stage, finished fourth and far enough clear of the big guns at the top of the general classification to take the maillot jaune.
Stage 7 Results
1 Brice Feillu (Fra) Agritubel - 6:11:31
2 Christophe Kern (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne - 0:00:05
3 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger) Team Milram - 0:00:25
4 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale - 0:00:26
5 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi - 0:00:45
6 Christophe Riblon (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale - 0:01:05
7 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Quick Step - 0:02:32
8 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne - 0:03:14
9 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:03:26
10 Cadel Evans (Aus) Silence - Lotto - 0:03:47
General classification after stage 7
1 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale - 25:44:32
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana - 0:00:06
3 Lance Armstrong (USA) Astana - 0:00:08
4 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana - 0:00:39
5 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:00:46
6 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Astana - 0:00:54
7 Tony Martin (Ger) Team Columbia - HTC - 0:01:00
8 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Garmin - Slipstream - 0:01:24
9 Andy Schleck (Lux) Team Saxo Bank - 0:01:49
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas - 0:01:54
Full results here..
Links to news sites...
"Cancellara loses yellow jersey to Nocentini
There was a delightful dichotomy to the journey from Barcelona to Andorre Arcalis today; a Tour debutante took the win while one of the race's most spoken-of figures almost finished the day in yellow. His brother tasted success at last year's Tour and today it was time for younger brother Brice Feillu (Agritubel) to do the same, winning on the slopes that led to Andorre Arcalis.
Yes, that oft-discussed character in the Tour de France was Alberto Contador (Astana). While he didn't take the race lead - that honour went to Rinaldo Nocentini - Contador signalled his intent with a fantastic final two kilometres that may decide the leadership of the Astana team for this year's Tour. He now trails the Italian by only six seconds." Read more from CyclingNews.com...
"Feillu wins 7th Tour stage in Pyrenees
ARCALIS, Andorra (AP) - Brice Feillu of France has won the seventh stage of the Tour de France in a solo breakaway.
It was not immediately clear who would take the yellow jersey from Fabian Cancellara, who trailed far behind the main pack. Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador are in contention for the overall lead.
Friday's 140-mile trek from Barcelona to the Andorran ski resort of Arcalis was the longest stage this Tour. Competitors scaled the punishing Serra-Seca pass before the climb into Arcalis that is one of the toughest ascents in cycling." Read more from the AP...
"Feillu leaves Tour chief teary as French win again
By Justin Davis
ARCALIS, Andorra (AFP) - It usually takes a highly-publicised doping scandal to bring Tour de France chief Christian Prudhomme to the brink of tears.
But on Friday it was 24-year-old debutant Brice Feillu, giving the hosts their second stage victory of the race, who brought the emotions flooding out after an impressive ride to victory on the first day in the mountains.
Feillu, a specialist climber who rides for Agritubel with his brother Romain, took his chance by attacking his small group of breakaway companions inside the final 6km of the 10.1km climb to Arcalis.
And despite fearing he would be reeled in by Cofidis rival Christophe Kern, he dug deep on every remaining corner to come over the finish line with a five-second lead on his fellow Frenchman." Read more from the AFP...
"Contador asserts dominance as Feillu takes stage and Nocentini snatches jersey
Agritubel's Brice Feillu attacked his daylong breakaway companions to a stage win atop the hors catégorie Andorre Arcalis, as Astana's Alberto Contador rocketed away from the main group to put time into his rivals for the overall. Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r), who joined Feillu in the day's big breakaway, held on to finish in between Feillu and Contador to take the yellow jersey.
Astana drove the peloton for most of the day, setting up Contador to rocket off the front and eventually finish 19 seconds ahead of a select group of contenders that included teammates Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong as well as Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) and the Garmin-Slipstream duo of Christian Vande Velde and Bradley Wiggins. In doing so, Contador moved into second place in the overall standings, with Armstrong and Leipheimer immediately behind him in the general classification. " Read more from VeloNews.com...