Sky's Chris Froome let the climbing specialists have a go, then reeled them in on the final slope, Ax 3 Domaines. By the time he reached the top, soon-to-be Sir Froomie had built a lead of 51 seconds on teammate Richie Porte and 1:08 on his closest rival, Alejandro Valverde.
We were treated to a predictable launch from Thomas Voeckler on the next-to-last climb. He was caught quickly by Movistar's youngster, Nairo Quintana. His style said Easy Sunday Ride, but he flew past the laboring Voeckler. Pierre Rolland was next, hoping to catch Quintana and ride together to the finish. He never caught the Colombian, who built a 1-minute lead over the contenders at the top of the Col de Pailheres.
His descending skills didn't match his climbing, though, and he lost half his advantage by the start of the final climb to Ax 3 Domaines. Sky set a nasty tempo on the lower slopes and dispensed with all but a half-dozen riders by the time Froome accelerated 5K from the finishing line. Only Porte could finish within a minute of the leader.
Let's just hope the Tour doesn't get too boring, the criticism leveled last year when Sir Bradley Wiggins took the yellow on Stage 7 and didn't look back.
Look for the opportunists to grab some glory with stage wins. At this point, almost everyone but Porte should be considered an opportunist. Only Valverde, Bauke Mollema, Larens Ten Dam, Mikel Nieve, Roman Kreuziger, Alberto Contador and Quintana are less than two minutes behind after the first mountain stage.
Ambitions of a podium appear bleak for the following hopefuls:
Joaquim Rodriguez, 2:10 behind Froome on Stage 8"The heat really started getting to me, which was strange because I'd done a lot to prepare for the heat," Van Garderen said in an interview available on the team's web site. "It felt like I couldn't have the power. Then, I got a little bit of chills, but I wasn't massively dehydrated. I felt like my normal self minus 30 percent."
Garmin twins Andrew Talansky and Dan Martin, 2:34
Andy Schleck, 3:34
Pierre Rolland, 3:47
Cadel Evans:, 4:13
Ryder Hesjedal, 8:15.
Tejay Van Garderen, 12:15.