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Tour de France Stage 7: Long wait ends as Mark Cavendish takes win number 26

Chris Froome of Team Sky back in race lead after Tony Martin's departure with broken collarbone...

Mark Cavendish has got his 26th career Tour de France stage win - and his third in the colours of Etixx-Quick Step - beating Andre Greipel of Lotto-Soudal and Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan in a close sprint finish at the end of Stage 7 in Fougères.

It's the Manxman's first victory in the race since Stage 13 of the 2013 race, and will help ease his team's disappointment at race leader Tony Martin breaking his collarbone yesterday in a late crash, with Cavendish dedicating his win to his team mate.

Chris Froome came home safely in the bunch and is back in the yellow jersey, swapping the normal Team Sky jersey he wore today for the iconic garment of Tour de France leader at the end of the 190.5 kilometre stage from Livarot - the most uneventful in what has been a frenetic opening week to the 102nd edition.

Luis Ángel Maté of Cofidis and Brice Feillu of  Bretagne-Séché Environnement were the last survivors of the day’s break and were swept up with 11 kilometres remaining as the sprinters’ teams came to the fore to try and set their men up.

Tomorrow sees what should be a hard-fought battle for the stage win with a tough uphill finish at Mur de Bretagne – Cadel Evans won there in 2011 on his way to becoming Australia’s first ever Tour de France winner.

That’s followed on Sunday by a 27km team time trial from Vannes to Plumelec – a comparatively long distance for the discipline, and with an undulating profile and uphill finish, one that could see some significant time gaps between the overall contenders.

Stage winner Mark Cavendish of Etixx-Quick Step

In the last two sprints, my team had done good. But I was too anxious and I went too early. One hesitation is enough for one or two riders to pass and the sprint to over.

Today it was about kind of not being impatient anymore but I almost left it too long. I had seen that Alexander Kristoff had two lead out men. Normally he goes early. I waited for him to go and I was almost too late. I had to avoid Guarnieri and I almost panicked.

If André Greipel had pushed me towards the barriers, I would have lost but he's a gentleman. He sprinted straight. I had the same power the other days but it was a question of timing to make it a victory this time.

What happened to Tony Martin yesterday is a very sad way to lose the yellow jersey. Losing him is a big loss for us. On and off the bike, he's a great guy. It's like we started the Tour de France with twelve guys and we're left with eight.

I'm glad Tony's operation went well. I wanted to win for him today. I would have loved him to be here to celebrate with us. I dedicate the victory to him.

Every of my 26 wins are special. One stage victory make a rider's career, so to come here and win every year is great. It's been a while since I last won: two years. It's nice to come back as a winner in the presence of my wife and my daughter.

I don't know how many other opportunities there'll be for a bunch sprint before Paris. Maybe in Valence, maybe in Rodez but the finish seems to be hard and it'll be against Peter Sagan who will probably win the green jersey again this year.

I'd like to stay with Etixx-Quick Step next year. I've grown up with this team. Belgians love cycling. I do too. It's great to share the passion with people who feel the same.

Chris Froome of Team Sky, back in the overall lead

There was a heated moment between Vincenzo Nibali and myself yesterday [the Astana rider blamed Froome for the crash that took him and Tony Martin down, though TV footage showed that wasn't so].

Initially he thought I was the reason for him to fall so I wanted to clarify that it wasn't the case. That's behind us now. We've had a relaxed day today. It was much needed.

It's amazing in the bunch to see so many bandages and bleeding shorts. I have the great feeling that the race calms down now. I have the yellow jersey, which is a huge privilege.

To be honest it doesn't change much. It boosts the team's motivation but we already have that mentality. With or without the jersey, we're very proactive and we work more than we'd normally have to.

Especially given what happened to me last year, my big goal, mentally more than physically, was to be here at the front of the race and to get through the first week without major issues.

Having guys around like Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe who are used to ride the classics has given me confidence. They've showed me the way. We have a strong team for the team time trial, especially on this course, but we have to get through tomorrow first.

Honestly, I don't know Mûr-de-Bretagne very well. I'll have to study it tonight. It doesn't look as selective as Mur de Huy but in the past there have been some gaps between GC contenders, everyone will have that in mind. It also depends on how the stage unfolds earlier on.

I don't know how my rivals see me but I can see Tejay [van Garderen] is in great form, only a few seconds behind me on GC. [Nairo] Quintana has lost a lot of time. It's been a big blow for him but I expect him to be strong in the mountains. Alberto Contador has finished the Giro.

The big question is how fresh he will be in the mountains. Only time will tell. Nibali? I've seen him well this week.

 

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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