Stage 7: Belfort - Chalon-Sur-Saone
Date: July 12, 2019
Stage type: Flat
After two days when the climbers have dominated the action, the sprinters should become the focus once again as the Tour begins a diagonal sweep from eastern France to the south-west with the longest stage of the race. Although there are three categorised climbs on the route, the last of them lies just beyond the halfway point and, as a consequence, they won't be a factor in the day's result.
Given the paucity of clear sprint opportunities on this year's Tour parcours, the teams harbouring sprinters who have opted to make the race one of their principal objectives, such as Lotto-Soudal with Caleb Ewan and Deceuninck-QuickStep with Elia Viviani, won't want to give the breakaway too much leeway. That should mean riders from teams like Wanty-Groupe Gobert and Total-Direct Énergie are likely to spend most of the afternoon in front of the motorbike cameras vainly hoping that Chalon-sur-Saône's history of producing solo winners will be extended.
Sixty years ago, Britain's Brian Robinson finished 20 minutes ahead of the pack here. In 1988, Frenchman Thierry Marie stole away from the peloton with a kilometre remaining to take the kind of stealthy success that is rarely seen in the current era when sprint trains are so well drilled.
Assuming those trains get their timing right, this sprint should be extremely fast and competitive. The finishing straight on the avenue alongside the Saône doesn't have any significant bends inside the last kilometre and is unwaveringly direct over the closing 500 metres. Ewan, Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen, Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan should have the support to ensure they're right in the mix.
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