Stage 7: Épernay - Nancy
Highest point: 398m
At 234.5 kilometres, this stage is the second longest of the race. It is almost entirely flat yet its finish means that it’s unlikely to favour the pure sprinters.
After a day of predominantly flat roads, the riders must tackle two fourth category climbs. Don’t be fooled by the number - the second of these hits a maximum gradient of 8 per cent - and it could be a chance for the likes of Cannondale to put the hurt on the more climbing opposed sprinters.
Peter Sagan shouldn’t have too much trouble with this type of finish, nor should Orica-GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans. If it does end up with a sprint finish, then it is likely to be a battle between these two. Europcar’s Bryan Coquard is one of the smaller fast men and could infiltrate the competition.
There will be little to interest the GC riders and their teams, with bigger fish to fry in the coming days, so it will be down to the sprint teams to take control on this day. With this in mind, we could see a puncheur take his opportunity on this rolling finish. Gerrans’ teammate Michael Albasini could also be a strong contender if he could make it into the break, as could IAM Cycling’s Sylvain Chavanel, who is bound to be very active early in the race.
Haimar Zubeldia says... "After a week, everybody will be looking to the mountain stages which start tomorrow, but it won't affect how we race - we go day by day. Today should see a standard break then the sprinter's teams controlling. It's long, which favours the sprinters."
In 1982, Phil Anderson became the first Australian winner of a Tour de France stage, in Nancy. He soloed to victory after 250 kilometres, to beat Henk Lubberding by four seconds. Anderson paved the way for Australians of the future. The previous year, he became the first non-European to wear the yellow jersey and wore it again in 1982, before winning the young rider’s classification. Can Gerrans make it another one for the southern hemisphere?
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