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Chavanel back in yellow

Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel won his second stage of the Tour de France on Saturday as the race got serious in the shadows of the Alps.

The Quick Step cyclist won the second stage of the race in Spa on Monday and in Saturday’s seventh stage reclaimed the yellow jersey from race leader and Swiss Olympic champion Fabian Cancellara.

None of the yellow jersey contenders lost time on what was the first day in the mountains and Quick Step all-rounder Chavanel now holds a 1min 25sec lead on Australian Cadel Evans. Saturday’s stage was a 165.5km ride between Tournus and Station des Rousses.

Evans’ fellow yellow jersey challenger Andy Schleck is fourth at 1:55, with reigning champion Alberto Contador sixth at 2:26 and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong 14th at 3:16.

Chavanel started the day 1:01 behind Cancellara and his teammate, Jerome Pineau, laid the foundations of his superb stage win when he broke away from the peloton with four other riders.

With Pineau wearing the best climber’s polka dot jersey, it was the perfect foil for Quick Step — with one rider up front, they did not have to help in the chase, allowing Chavanel to save his energy for later.

As expected the sprinters did not feature as the climbs started to play their part. Garmin-Transitions’ South African rider Robbie Hunter was well down in 103rd spot (19min 14sec down) and winner of the last two stages, Mark Cavendish, even further down in 161st spot (22:17 back).

He’s now in 112th spot, 27:07 down. His team again plummeted down the team standings, from first to 19th after having gone from 10th to first in the previous stage.