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Tour de France 2018 Stage 7: Dylan Groenewegen sprints to victory

Martin James
13 Jul 2018

Groenewegen comes good at last to deny Gaviria another stage victory

Dylan Groenewegen (Lotto-NL Jumbo) finally found his sprinting form to win a frantic dash for the line at the end of Stage 7 of the 2018 Tour de France into Chartres.

The Tour’s longest stage at 231km alternated between long sections of soft-pedalling and periods of full gas racing as crosswinds threatened to break the race apart.

In the end, though, it was always likely to end in a mass sprint finish, and Groenewegen judged his effort to perfection, coming off the wheel of favourite Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) to cross the line comfortably in front.

The green jersey of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was third to rack up another haul of points in that competition, then came Frenchman Arnaud Demare (Groupama-FdJ).

The yellow jersey remains on the shoulders of BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, who actually added to his lead by claiming a 3-second time bonus for winning the time bonus sprint out on the course.  

Stage 7 in detail

Stage 7 started with another long, hard day in the saddle in prospect. A quick look at the stage details revealed a primarily pan-flat profile – in fact, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday for anything more serious than a 3rd category climb to contend with.

In that sense, so far the 2018 Tour has been like a Grand Tour of old: front-loaded with plenty of flat stages to keep the sprinters happy, the GC contenders trying (and often failing) to stay out of trouble, even a team time-trial.

Today had all the look of an old-school flat stage too – 231km long, enough to make it the longest stage of this Tour (though that was standard fare back in the day) – and while a few late turns and technical challenges looked certain to keep things interesting, the finale featured a gentle incline up to the finish rather than the kind of nasty kick-up we so often see these days in Grand Tours.

What definitely was a potential threat was the wind, with plenty of open farmland to be negotiated particularly towards the end of the stage before the final run-in to Chartres.

Maybe that, and the sheer distance to be covered, explained the bizarre start to the stage. The flag had barely dropped when Yoann Offredo (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) tested the water, only to sit up when it was clear nobody wanted to go with him.

Then teammate Thomas Degand had a go, and still the peloton didn’t respond. He continued riding almost for want of something better to do, and didn’t take long to build up a minute’s lead despite his speed barely going above 30kmh.

The stage finally kicked into life with 15km gone when a 10-man move went clear containing some decent riders, including the likes of Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal), Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) and AG2R duo Oliver Naesen and Tony Gallopin.

They were all back in the fold within 10km, but the exercise served to at least wake things up a bit, and Offredo decided this was the time to have another go off the front.

This was more like it, and Offredo was allowed to build up a lead approaching 10 minutes without too much trouble.

He passed over the top of the 4th category Cote du Buisson de Perseigne untroubled to claim the day’s only mountains point.

But then his luck ran out. With the wind changing to a tail/crosswind suddenly the pace in the peloton shot up with riders suddenly fearful of splits in the bunch. And they were right to be afraid – the split happened, with yesterday’s winner Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin and Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish among those caught out.

The sudden injection of pace saw Offredo’s lead tumble quickly, and he was reeled in with fully 90km to go – just as the dropped riders regained contact again to add insult to injury.

So another of the wild card teams, Fortuneo-Samsic, took the chance for a bit more TV time by sending Laurent Pichon down the road. The move was never going to last, but it was a bit of a surprise to see him caught with 38km still to ride.

That meant the peloton was all together for the time bonus sprint 30km from the end, and Van Avermaet took the opportunity to add a few seconds to his lead.

With nobody else seemingly interested in trying their luck after such a long day of riding, the peloton rolled along in formation to tick the kilometres down to the big finish in Chartres.

All the leading sprinters looked like they fancied their chances, and for the first time in this Tour we saw sprint trains from Quick-Step Floors, Dimension-Data, Bora-Hansgrohe, LottoNL Jumbo and Bahrain-Merida fighting for space at the front approaching the red flag.

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