Cycling: Last chance for sprinters as mountains await

MONTPELLIER (AFP) - After two days tailored for the sprinters, the Tour de France moves slowly towards the Pyrenees mountains on Friday with the 205km seventh stage from Montpellier to Albi.

But before the really big climbs of Saturday and Sunday, there should not be too much punishment for the peloton, even if there are a total of four categorised ascents on the menu.

The most testing of those will be the category two Col de la Croix de Mounis, while the last, the category four Cote de Teillet 34.5 km from the finish, should be too far from the line to be used as a springboard for a "puncher" with victory ambitions.

The main yellow jersey contenders will be saving themselves for the challenges in store at the weekend.

So, unless a breakaway prevails, the stage could once again end in a sprint finish in the town where French great Andre Darrigade recorded the first of his 22 Tour stage wins back in 1953.

That means this could be another opportunity for last year's green jersey winner Peter Sagan to extend his lead in this year's points standings or a chance for Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel to record a second stage win so far on this year's Tour.

Meanwhile, Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen could be another contender before his team fully focus their attention on the general classification at the weekend.

After searing heat marked Thursday's ride from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier, high temperatures will once again present a test for the riders with the mercury expected to rise to a maximum of 30 deg C, and 23 deg C in the mountains.