How It All Started
Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) is away first, and then Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) takes off with one of the six remaining Astana riders, Enrico Gasparotto. The peloton doesn’t approve of this arrangement though and quickly brings them to heel.
Instantly Voigt tries again, and he’s got Blel Kadri (Ag2r) for company – this seems more appropriate and they’re away. Kadri’s been in good form this year, winning the Roma Maxima race, and being active all spring.
The gap is out to over six minutes, as Christian Vande Velde sadly waves the Tour goodbye for the final time, pulling out due to injuries (new and revisited) after a crash yesterday and another crash this morning. Voigt and Kadri take on the Col des 13 Vents (Hill of the 13 winds), with the Frenchman first to the top. He repeats the trick on the Col de le Croix de Mounis. In the bunch, Orica-GreenEdge are setting a pace, but Cannondale are driving too.
The gap to Voigt and Kadri is disappearing, and the latter’s team-mate Romain Bardet performs the faithful duty of diving past Pierre Rolland for the last King of the Mountains points, putting Kadri in virtual polka dots.
The main field is splintering – Cavendish is dropped but he’s far from alone. It’s too much for a lot of the fastmen (Goss, Greipel, Kittel), and some of their team-mates opt to join them for a slower day out, even if it’s just as painful. Just over half-way, and Voigt/Kadri are busted.
The road lumps and bumps along a ridge, and Cannondale are murdering any hopes of an escape – the intermediate sprint is next and Sagan flies through first for more precious green jersey points. With that out of the way, Cannondale sit up.
Off immediately are Jan Bakelandts (RadioShack Leopard), the former yellow jersey, Juanjo Oroz (Euskaltel), and Europcar’s Cyril Gautier.
The Belgian drags them over the Côte de la Quintaine and the day’s final climb, the Cote de Teillet. But he’s a danger to Daryl Impey’s overall lead, so Orica-GreenEdge are keeping the lead pegged.
14kms to go and it’s still that trio of Oroz, Gautier and Bakelandts riding like they’re trying to hold back the Mediterranean with a sieve. It’s thirty seconds of a gap and Cannondale are the fluorescent green head of a long, writhing snake of riders.
The gruppetto is totally unconcerned, way behind. Cavendish rolls along laughing and joking with Lotto-Belisol’s Adam Hansen whilst the Australian’s capo Andre Greipel shares stories with Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
6kms left, and it’s pretty much all over for the break – inside ten seconds as Gautier swishes them through a roundabout. The escape persists, as they barrel towards Albi; the spectators’ shadows spear across the road.
4kms to go and a couple of Cannondales come within a tyre’s width of toppling each other as they get their lines wrong. They sort themselves out and the escape is snuffed out with three to race.
1.9kms to go, and the field streams onto a beautiful stone bridge and across the River Tarn. Cannondale are starting to fray at the edges a little bit as Argos-Shimano move forward.
The last stretch of road is dead-straight, dead-flat. There’s no Cavendish – dropped; no Greipel – dropped. Sagan looks boxed in. Everyone else fancies their chances! The sprint unwinds, and even Navardauskas (Garmin-Sharp) is having a go through the middle. The yellow jersey of Daryl Impey goes to the right and there’s a near touch of wheels so he eases off. Degenkolb is in front, but …
… Sagan rockets out of his shadow and hits the front inside 150 meters to go! It’s a clear win, at last, for the Slovak champion. No massive display of choreography, just a grateful show of the sponsor’s logos.
Impey stayed safe to retain yellow. The main overall contenders were where they should have been, and the ‘bus’ rolled in pretty late.
Pez is roadside – stick with us for the latest shenanigans.
Tour de France Stage 7, Montpellier – Albi, 205kms
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale 4hrs 54’12”
2 John Degenkold (Ger) Argos-Shimano
3 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
4 Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
5 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
6 Franxesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
7 Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack Leopard
8 Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
9 Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida)
10 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep all same time
Tour de France Overall After Stage 7
1 Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge 27hrs 12’ 29”
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling + 3”
3 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge + 5”
4 Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge + 5”
5 Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step + 6”
6 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step + 6”
7 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling + 8”
8 Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling + 8”
9 Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 14”
10 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff + 14”