Dylan Groenewegen of Jumbo-Visma has won Stage 7 of the Tour de France in Chalon-sur-Saone, snatching victory by a tyre's width from Lotto-Soudal's Caleb Ewan, with Bira-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan third. Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo remains in the race leader's yellow jerseyy.
At 230 kilometres, today was the longest stage of the race, and as one that was preceded by perhaps the toughest, with yesterday’s summit finish at La Planche des Belles Filles and a headwind for much of the route, it was unsurprising that the peloton effectively gave itself a day off.
The moment the flag dropped at the end of the neutralised section, two riders got away, both getting into the break for the third time this year – Stefane Rossetto of Cofidis, and Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Groupe Gobert.
When it became apparent no-one else would be joining them, Offredo dropped slightly back as if reluctant to spend such a long day swapping turns with just one other rider at the front of the race before finally committing himself, but the pair were allowed an advantage of no more than 4 minutes throughout the stage.
Early on, the EF Education First rider Tejay van Garderen, who struggled yesterday, had a crash that left his face and right knee bloodied and his jersey torn to shreds, although he remounted and was soon back in the bunch.
The monotony of the stage was briefly enlivened by the intermediate sprint, which came with 33.5 kilometres remaining.
Rossetto led Offredo across, neither contesting the sprint, but there was action behind as Bahrain-Merida’s Sonny Colbrelli took the 15 points available for third place ahead of green jersey wearer Sagan.
The increase in pace meant that the two escapees looked set to be caught shortly afterwards, and with the peloton having closed to within 10 seconds and the pair having spent more than 200 kilometres at the front of the race, they could have been forgiven for shaking hands and sitting up.
But with the bunch behind slowing down, Rossetto and Offredo soon re-established an advantage of 30 seconds and it quickly became clear why the peloton had eased up as a number of riders including Movistar’s Nairo Quintana and Dan Martin of UAE Team Emirates who had been distanced for some reason been tailed off were allowed to rejoin the pack.
The front pair were finally swept up with 12.5 kilometres left as the sprinters’ teams looked to set up their men for the finish.
Stage winner Dylan Groenewegen
It's always very close with Caleb as he's a very good sprinter. I like to sprint against him. But this time I won.
I had a difficult start to the Tour but yesterday I felt good again. Today the team really charged for me. And it was great.
We took the lead very early but it was good. I started my sprint with 350 metres to go. I saw that Ewan had gone but fortunately it was enough.
The first day was not at all what I expected and we worked very hard to get to this moment.
I'm really happy with the team. After the last sprint stage they said they believed in me and they worked really hard for me.
Race leader Giulio Ciccone
The finale was crazy and I was a little tired with my legs after yesterday. But I'm again in the yellow jersey.
Tomorrow will be a very hard stage again. For sure I need to try to keep the jersey but I only have six seconds so it will be hard.
It's very difficult. Six seconds is nothing.
For me it is important to recover well and tomorrow we will see. With the yellow jersey, it will be impossible to be in the breakaway.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.