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Tour de France 2018: Stage 7

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Good morning to all our readers. It's Friday the 13th of July and stage 7 of the Tour de France. 

The riders are currently signing on at the moment and photographers and journalists are scurrying around looking for the best quotes and shots ahead of the start. The riders will roll out in around 20 minutes from now, with the official start at around 12:20 CET. 

At least the sun is out and the wind is virtually non existent at the moment. Those conditions are set to hold for most of the day but I had a quick chat with a DS this morning and he was worried that the final could be 'super hectic' with possible crosswinds through exposed roads in the last few kilometres. Time will tell. 

And now for something completely different... here's a photo of Gilbert having his bike checked by the UCI at the start this morning.

Race leader Greg Van Avermaet there, opting for black shorts rather than a garish full yellow ensemble. Bravo, Gregory. 

A reminder of how things stand on GC coming into the race:



1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 22:35:46
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:03
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:05
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:06
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:12
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors 0:00:18
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 0:00:45
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 0:00:51
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 0:00:52
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 0:00:53

Majka and Fulgsang are well placed. The latter came back after being held up in crash yesterday and came over the line with a group that contains many of the GC favourites. I've not seen Majka once in this year's race but he's kept quiet and in contention. 

In the race for the green jersey Peter Sagan has opened up a healthy lead already. Today's sprint is at 169km but the World champion was in good spirits this morning when he was surrounded by the media. He's on the start line now, with Greg Van Avermaet to his left. 

The riders have started, and are rolling through the neutralized zone in blissful sunshine. Van Avermaet is talking to Christian Prudhomme who pops out of the sunroof to say hello. Dangerous that is. What's French for ASBO? We've 8km of neutral roads before the flag drops and racing officially starts on stage 7 of this year's race.

You can find our mini stage preview for today, right here. While all our stage results from yesterday, are just here. Finally you can listen to our latest podcast, here. On Wednesday we sat down with Will Fotheringham to talk about the Festina Affair Tour de France of 1998. 

Around 3km of neutral road to go as we reach the outskirts of Fougères, where Cavendish won a stage of the Tour de France in 2015. 


Today's a really significant stage for Cavendish, in fact. He's not won since the start of the year and there are some doubts about whether he has the legs to win a stage in this year's race. He's been written off so many times in his career but on stage 4 it looked like he was missing that final top-end speed after a decent leadout from his Dimension Data team. 

Prudhomme appears from the sunroof once more, waves his flag, and we're officially racing on stage 7 of the Tour de France...

Near the back of the bunch former Quick-Stepers Daniel Martin and Jack Bauer are sharing a few words as the bunch tap out a gentle pace. 

And Wanty try again with 226km to go. Again there's no response from the peloton. Are we going to see a lone rider attempt a suicide break from 226km out? Please no...

224km remaining from 231km

Who is Thomas Degand and what on earth is he thinking going on a solo move like this?


I can't provide a suitable answer for the latter question but he's a 32-year-old who has been kicking around the Pro Conti ranks for much of his career. There was a year at WorldTour with IAM Cycling in 2015 but in 2016 he moved to Wanty. This is his third Grand Tour, after he finished inside the top 40 last year in the Tour. He's won a couple of races during his career, the biggest being the Tour du Jura Cycliste in 2017. 

 

Does not compute. TV commentators can't seem to comprehend that the smaller teams haven't provided the early break of the day. A varying degree of tactics does not compute but this is good to see. It would be interesting if the Pro Conti teams attacked, then sat up, then attacked again, just to try and unsettle the WorldTour sprint trains. 41 seconds for the lone leader. 

We've been to Chatres of course before. In 2004 Stuart O'Grady won from a group and Thomas Voeckler moved into yellow, a day after Lance Amstrong and US Postal won a 60km plus TTT. In our race report we called them 'the best team ever'. You can read that report, right here.

And now.... we have some action from the race. Our lone Wanty rider has been caught and now the bunch is strung out. Bravo Wanty because they've provoked this. 

There's a bit of wind and that's lined out the bunch and Quick-Step and several other teams have gone on the attack with 213km to go. EF are almost caught out at the back of the field but it looks like Uran is fine for now. The pace has increased rapidly and we can see some of the names in the lead group now. Gerrans is there and so is Vermote, AG2R have two riders there, including Gallopin. BMC are chasing at the moment, even though they have Gerrans in the break. Theuns, Gogl, Postberger are all there too. This is the best break of the Tour de France so far. De Gendt is there for Lotto Soudal. He's not laughing now...

Naesen is there as well and he takes a huge turn on the front and it's LottoNL who are now chasing at the front of the peloton because they've missed the split. The gap is at 12 seconds with 210km to go.

Five LottoNL riders are on the front and drilling the pace for the main field but the gap is holding at 15 seconds. There are a few passengers in the break but they're holding their own at the moment as we see real panic from the peloton.

The problem for LottoNL is that so many of their sprint rivals have a man in the break. Quick-Step are there, so Gaviria's men will not chase. Demare has a man in the break, and so do Cavendish and Greipel. 

Admit it... you thought this was going to be dull stage but it's sprung into life with the break still holding a slender lead over the bunch. 'There’s no such thing as an uninteresting stage' Twain would have said if he was talking about the Tour, rather than life, and we're seeing that today. There's still over 200km to go, however. 

And with 204km to go the break has been caught. Movistar are on the front and they're calming things down, with BMC and Mitchelton paying attention. 

199km remaining from 231km

194km remaining from 231km

Ofrredo has pulled out 1'46 over the bunch with 190km to go. 

Ofrredo, 31, has had an interesting career. He burst onto the scene with FDJ and was earmarked as  real talent after a number of impressive results in the Classics and other one day races. However in 2012 he was given a year ban for violating the whereabouts programme. In 2015 he tried to nullify his contact at FDJ, with a possible move to Garmin, however he hung around until 2017, at which point he moved to Wanty. 

Does he have a chance? No not really but how about this for an Omen...

And Chris Froome puts his hand up. He wants the Team Sky car as we see Movistar on the front and just keeping an eye on things. They don't want to miss out on any splits as we see Quintana and Landa share a few words. A few clouds have started to appear but no sign of rain at this point.

58km remaining from 231km

Tom Dumoulin is back with the team car at the moment. He's been there for some time, but takes on a bottle and some advice from the occupants of the Sunweb Mini. The lead for Offredo is now up to 8;40.

157km remaining from 231km

157km remaining from 231km

FDJ have moved most of their squad towards the front as well as they look to support former Milan-San Remo winner Demare for the finish. The Frenchman won a stage at the Tour de Suisse last month and is looking for back-to-back Tour stages after winning one last year. The gap is at 7'48.

Lotto NL, Lotto Soudal and Quick-Step all have a man each on the front of the bunch with FDJ and BMC lined out behind them.

146km remaining from 231km

Van Avermaet is sharing a joke with Kung and Caruso at the moment, while Porte gets on the radio to talk to the team car. 

Tim Declercq is currently on the front, all 1.9m of him, with Antwan Tolhoek just ahead of him. There's a rather blatant height difference between the two riders, and I'm not sure Declercq is enjoying too much wind cover. 

A reminder that we recorded a podcast all about the Festina Affair and the 1998 Tour de France. We spoke to journalist William Fotheringham and several riders who took part in the race. You can listen to our podcast, right here.

Offredo is still out on his own by the way... He's enjoying the experience at least, joking around with the camera crew following him on a moto. The gap, however is down to 6'47, with 135km to go. He knows it, we all know, it's going to be a bunch sprint today...

Offredo's ruined it... he's lurched over the bars and had a go at that dreadful descending style that has somehow become vogue in recent years. Like Instagrams, or 'the cloud' I just don't get it...There should be a fine for that sort of behaviour. 

Still a nice and easy tempo from the main field but AG2R have moved up and Valverde is well placed too. No danger of cross-winds at this point but we're heading towards the only categorised climb of the day so a number of riders are trying to keep out of trouble.

The Wanty car comes alongside Offredo and offers him some sustenance as the rest of the bunch head through the feedzone. 124km to go.

Vanendert is on the front at the moment and setting the pace. I have a terrible memory but I do remember the stage he won at the Tour de France in 2011 at Plateau De Beille. He held off a group that included Samuel Sanchez and Andy Schleck, while Contador cracked a little and lost time. I think Arjen Robben was at the finish. 

118km remaining from 231km

Offredo shares a few words with his DS. He's not that impressed with having to ride like this - searching for publicity for the team - and he knows it's a fruitless task as the gap drops down to 4'30.

We're onto the fourth cat climb of the Cote du Buisson and at least Offredo is being cheered on by the crowds who have lined the roads. Back in the bunch and Van Avermaet comes back through the cars after a recent stop. 110km to go.

Four minutes for Offredo with 102km to go as the Frenchman tackles a section of false flat. Quick-Step are leading the main field at the moment but we're around 20 minutes down on the slowest schedule at the moment. 

And there's a slight increase in cross wind activity and it's Movistar and Ag2R who have lifted the pace. Uran is at the back and he needs to get it together because he keeps on getting caught out.

97km remaining from 231km

The last two groups are going to merge bur Uran and Cavendish are in trouble at the moment as Ag2R continue to push the pace at the front of the peloton. 

96km remaining from 231km

 Dan Martin is another rider who has been caught out. He's in the group with Cavendish as Porte even takes a turn on the front of the main echelon.

Thomas, Froome and Van Avermaet are in the front group, who have 40 seconds on the Martin group, who is being helped along by the UAE riders.

Dan Martin has been rescued and it looks like the pace has gone out of the front group but Offredo just has 25 seconds left of his advantage. 

91km remaining from 231km

The pace once more drops as we see Team Sky, Movistar and AG2R pin themselves to the front of proceedings. 

The pace has really dropped out of the bunch now, even though Offredo has been caught. 86km to go. 

BMC, with the yellow jersey in their ranks, set the pace at the front as Rudy Molard drops back and looks for his FDJ team car. He's on bidon duty this afternoon. 

84km remaining from 231km

Pichon has already pushed the gap out to one minute as he moves out of the saddle to find a few more seconds on yet another gentle rise. 80km to go. We've been racing for around 5 hours now, which would get you well into the Godfather Part 2 if you'd started the trilogy when the stage started. 

Almost two minutes now for the Fortuneo rider with 76km to go. The rain has held off and we've got more blue sky but the wind is still present. 

The intermediate sprint is coming up and the bunch have found their legs once more, with several sprint teams taking to the front and setting the pace. 68km to go.

And now Mitchelton hit the front as they look to protect Adam Yates. 64km to go and a number of other GC riders have moved up but Team Sky are a bit too far back if the race splits. 

Pichon takes the sprint but then Gaviria takes second place ahead of Sagan and Kristoff. Nothing from Kittel, Greipel or Cavendish at this point.

Just 45 seconds for Pichon, who is on the rivet, and has been since he went away around 30km ago. Moscon has since brought Team Sky towards the front. 

The pace has once again dropped in the bunch with the gap up to 1'11 as Pichon plough on with 55km to go.

We're inside the final 50km of racing with the gap to Pichon at 1'28. There's no interest in a chase at this point from the peloton, with Movistar and Lotto Soudal just tapping out a steady but manageable pace. 

Craddock at the back and is holding on. This stage has been good for him to be honest, and although it's been long the steady pace will help his body recover. It's another day in the bank ahead of the rest day.

The pace finally increases and Pichon has just 39 seconds left of his advantage as De Gendt hits the front for Lotto Soudal as they look to wind things up for Greipel. Not sure they need to do the work from this far out but there you go... Surely it's up to Quick-Step who have the fastest sprinter here in Gaviria. 

Pichon goes the way of Offredo and is caught with 38km to go, so in my book Offredo will get the combativity prize as we see the Lotto-Soudal bunch reel in the Frenchman. 

We're closing in on the final 30km of the stage with Van Avermaet taking the three seconds on offer as Astana, Movistar and BMC set the pace. Lotto Soudal are still there with De Gendt present on the front of affairs. 

No sign of Kittel or Katusha at this point but this is a major chance for the German to get his Tour up and running. He hasn't won a race since March, which is a huge drought for the rider. 

Bora, with Sagan in tow, have also announced their presence as we see Thomas latch onto the back of the Lotto Soudal train with 27km to go.

Colbrelli is there too but his leadout isn't as prominent. He will have to hope that Haussler and a couple of other riders can position him close to the front inside the final few kilometres. Easier said than done, considering that the Italian hasn't won a Tour stage before. 

The road suddenly tightens to just two lanes of traffic but the same teams - Lotto, BMC, Movistar, Astana and Bora remain at the front. Kung has been on the front for most of the day... he must be one of the most sought after riders in the market at the moment. 

20km remaining from 231km

Dimension Data have joined the party at the head of the bunch, meaning that there's even less space at the front. 16km to go.

A bit more intensity in the main field as Cavendish and his men align on the far side. 

12km to and now we have more of those technical sections with plenty of road furniture. 

10km remaining from 231km

Uran is so far back... he's asking for trouble. 

FDJ come through on the left for Demare as we head through two roundabouts and then take a right hand corner. Quick-Step look disjointed at the moment. 8km to go.

UAE come through the middle but there's still such a long way to go. 

Cavendish is in Renshaw's wheel as we see Greipel, Kirstoff and Kittel all in contention. Sagan is there, and so is Gaviria. 

Left hand corner... and they make it through safely. 

But the bunch almost splinters as Lotto Soudal lead the race with 5.4km to go. 

And here come Sky... to help Froome on the right. Bora are shoulder to shoulder with them. 

4km to go.

Cavendish, Sagan, Groenewegen are there but where is Kittel and Gaviria?

There's not a single Katusha jersey up there.

3km to go.

Lotto NL hit the front with Bahrain and Dimension Data. 2.8km to go.

A big right hand corner coming up...

They come around the corner... but that's created gaps and Cofidis now lead with 1.7km to go for Laporte.

And here comes Gaviria and his team with 1.4km to go.

Renshaw hits the front.

1km to go.

FDJ now hit the front.

But here comes Gaviria in second wheel.

Groenewegen comes over the top. He's going to take it. Gaviria has no response...

And Groenewegen takes his first stage of this year's race. A well timed move. He came around Kristoff and Gaviria had no response with Sagan or Demare taking third.

Groenewegen but a finger to his lips as he crosses the line. Sagan did indeed take third on the stage but it's LottoNL Jumbo who come out on top. 

You can find our brief report and results right here.

With that slightly uphill finale it was about timing and power, and Groenewegen was a 10 in both departments. Cavendish and Kristoff were well-placed but simply went backwards when the first four riders opened their respective sprints. 

Here's the top ten:

Quick-Step came from nowhere in that finale but perhaps dropped off Gaviria a bitt too far out. That said it would be harsh to be too critical of the Belgian team, as that was a very messy sprint but take nothing away from Groenewegen, who was superb in that sprint.

And here's today's stage winner:

General classification after stage 7

1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 28:19:25
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky 00:00:06
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 00:00:08
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:09
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:15
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors 00:00:21
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac p/b Cannondale 00:00:48
8 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team 00:00:54
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe 00:00:55
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana Pro Team 00:00:56

And here's Richie Porte, who spoke to Eurosport just now.

Groenewegen owes his team massively. Not just for the leadout but also that point much earlier in the stage when several teams attacked and LottoNL had to chase things down. That turned out to be crucial. 

And here's Mark Cavendish:

 

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) - Overall leader at the Tour de France
[On collecting time bonus sprint] It was an open sprint and nobody in front and so it was good to give it a try and take some seconds, just to be safe for the next stages because you never know what is going to happen.

You can find our fuller report, images, and results, right here.

You can find our fuller report, images, and results, right here.

Christophe Laporte (Cofidis) - 5th in stage 7|

It was a complicated sprint. In the last kilometres, I was really well placed, but I was probably up toward the front too early because I didn't want to take any risks in the last corner. I got passed. I think I started my sprint too late, in the end, so it was disappointing. I can take some positives out of the day, at least. I'm not in great shape at the moment and I'm hoping that that improves as the Tour goes on. (Eurosport)

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