Inflatable arch collapses over rider in Tour de France
LAC DE PAYOLLE, France (AP) Adam Yates didn't know what hit him.
On the attack in the Tour de France, the British rider was suddenly performing a somersault in midair after an inflatable arch marking the final kilometer collapsed and hit him during a bizarre finale to Friday's seventh stage.
Yates hit the ground hard, bloodying his chin and bruising his shoulder. Still, he was able to get back on his bike and reach the finish shortly after his countryman Steve Cummings won the first of four stages in the Pyrenees with a solo attack on the Col d'Aspin climb.
''I had no time to react,'' Yates said after getting his chin stitched up. ''It's a good thing it was just me on my own. It could have been a lot worse with the peloton sprinting at 70 kph (45 mph). ... I can't tell you what happened. The barrier came down.''
Fortunately, his day only got better. Organizers later revised his time and he rose to second in the overall standings, 5 minutes 50 seconds behind race leader Greg Van Avermaet of Belgium.
The 23-year-old Yates also earned the white jersey as the Tour's highest-placed young rider after officials took the finishing times three kilometers from the end 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.''
Van Avermaet, who was in a breakaway with Cummings, held on to the overall leader's yellow jersey he claimed two days earlier. Overall favorites Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana finished in the main pack.
Froome, Quintana, and other riders had to lift the crumpled arch - known as the ''flamme rouge'' for the red flag it holds - off the ground and slip their bikes underneath it.
Julian Alaphilippe is third in the overall standings, 5:51 behind, with Alejandro Valverde fourth, 5:53 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.''
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.
Cummings was part of a 29-man breakaway featuring Van Avermaet and 2014 winner Vincenzo Nibali.
However, it was Cummings who attacked first on the Aspin 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.
''I was cooking on that climb and I thought Vincenzo would come back,'' Cummings said. ''I thought Nibali would pass me like Marco Pantani or something and I would never be able to get on the wheel.
''But you just keep going,'' Cummings added. ''I was on the limit the whole last climb. It was horrible, actually.''
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.
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.''
''We've got a really big weekend coming up and there's a lot of hard racing to come,'' Froome said. ''I would imagine we'll see bigger time gaps tomorrow.''
AP Sports Writer Samuel Petrequin contributed to this report.
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf