Wiggins takes yellow jersey in France

Bradley Wiggins took possession of the Tour de France race leader's yellow jersey after a dominant performance from Team Sky today, capped by a stage seven success for fellow Briton Chris Froome.

Bradley Wiggins took possession of the Tour de France race leader's yellow jersey after a dominant performance from Team Sky today, capped by a stage seven success for fellow Briton Chris Froome.

Wiggins was third on the 199-kilometre route from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles as Froome triumphed by two seconds from defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing).

The result saw Wiggins become the fifth Briton to don the maillot jaune and the first since David Millar in 2000.

Wiggins entered the 99th Tour as one of the favourites and will aim to finish with the prize in Paris on July 22.

Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) won the opening prologue in Liege last Saturday and entered the seventh stage with an advantage of seven seconds over Wiggins, with Evans 10 seconds further adrift, but crumbled, finishing almost two minutes behind.

Tomorrow's 157.5km eighth stage from Belfort to Porrentruy, Switzerland, features seven categorised climbs, but Wiggins, Evans and Froome may wait until Monday's 41.5km time-trial to Besancon to shake up the general classification further.

The overall standings showed Wiggins in possession of a 10-second lead over Evans, with Vincenzo Nibali 16 seconds adrift in third and Froome up to ninth, one minute 32 seconds adrift.

It was a tactical masterclass from Team Sky, who for the first time have a rider leading the most prestigious race in cycling.

The day's seven-man escape was caught on the lower slopes of the 5.9km finishing ascent to La Planches des Belles Filles, with Team Sky squad leading the peloton.

Team Sky were to the fore throughout the day - with world champion Mark Cavendish performing a team role by retrieving bottles from the team car - and the tempo they set up the final climb whittled down the overall contenders.

Christian Knees and Edvald Boasson Hagen led the British squad to the lower slopes of the final climb and Michael Rogers took over, before Richie Porte forged on.

When Porte had done his turn, Froome maintained the pace, with Wiggins on his wheel and Evans shadowing him throughout.

The relentless pace reduced the group to five, Froome followed by Wiggins, Evans, Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis).

Australian Evans accelerated away with one kilometre to go and Froome, Wiggins and Nibali went with him.

Froome then summoned the energy to overtake Evans and dart for the line for a stunning first Tour stage win.

There was an even greater prize for Wiggins, who justified his pre-Tour favourite billing after wins in the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine stage races.

The day's stage began with the peloton counting the cost of the crash 26km from the end of stage six to Metz, with Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) among those who abandoned.

Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) joined him, taking the total number of withdrawals to 17.

It was the most after seven days' racing since 1998, when the 17 withdrawals included the Festina team who were expelled following a doping scandal.

The best-placed of the day's seven-man escape group was Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), who began the day in 55th place, five minutes four seconds behind Cancellara.

The numbers in the breakaway persuaded Cavendish not to contest the day's intermediate sprint.

The world champion was later seen on domestique duty, returning to the Team Sky support car to retrieve water bottles for his team-mates and carrying them in his rainbow jersey.

Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the peloton's dash for the line ahead of Matt Goss after the Orica-GreenEdge made a mess of their leadout, as the Slovakian consolidated his lead in the green jersey.

After two category three climbs, the escape had an advantage of three and a half minutes with 30km remaining.

The final climb had an average gradient of 8.5%, but Chris Boardman, one of four previous Britons to wear the maillot jaune, described the final 500 metres as among the steepest he had seen in a road race.

Team Sky and BMC Racing were prominent at the front of the peloton and, despite losing Hesjedal, Garmin-Sharp worked hard to reduce the deficit to the escape, apparently in a bid to help set up Dan Martin.

The breakaway's lead fell to under two minutes with 20km remaining and less than a minute with 12km to go.

Jurgen van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) lost touch at a crucial moment as Team Sky led the pursuit of the escapees, who were caught on the lower ramps of the finishing climb.

Then the first fireworks of the Tour took place as Cancellara was dropped, with Frank Schleck and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) among those who followed as Team Sky's tempo decimated the field and they took full advantage.

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