Sagan Wins Stage 7 of Tour
Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) launched an early attack, and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard), Blel Kadri (Ag2r- La Mondiale), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Julien El Fares (Sojasun), and Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) joined him. The peloton’s pace was high, however, and the bunch quickly shut down the move. Voigt and Kadri tried again. This time, they got away.
At 11 km, with the break leading the bunch by 1:10, a crash occurred in the peloton. Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp), Daniel Moreno (Katusha), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) went down. Vande Velde, who was injured in a Stage 5 crash, suffered additional injuries and abandoned his final Tour de France.
At 27 km, the escapees’ lead peaked at 6:40. Orica-GreenEdge, Cannondale, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Lotto-Belisol, and Argos-Shimano started chasing. At the summit of the day’s first climb, the Category 2 Col des 13 Vents (80 km), the fugitives’ advantage was down to 4:15. On the Category 2 Col de la Croix de Mounis (94.5 km), the peloton split, and the sprinters fell off of the pace. At 108 km, the Cannondale-led bunch reeled in Voigt and Kadri, while behind, Lotto-Belisol, Omega Pharma-Quick Step, and Argos-Shimano attempted to get their sprinters back in the peloton. Their efforts would not succeed, and the autobus would finish nearly 15 minutes behind the winners.
At 135 km, Stage 2 winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard) attacked, and Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi) went with him. At the summit of the Category 3 Cote de la Quintaine (149 km), the three leaders had 0:50 on the lead peloton. At one point, Bakelants, who had begun the day 0:33 behind Impey on GC, was the virtual maillot jaune. Orica-GreenEdge joined Cannondale at the front to preserve Impey’s lead. With 10 km left, Bakelants, Gautier, and Oroz were 0:20 ahead of the lead bunch, which reeled them in with 2.8 km remaining.
Cannondale dominated the peloton, but John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) charged up the left side of the road. Sagan took the German’s wheel and jumped with 200 m left. He won by more than a bike length.
After coming close to a stage win on so many occasions, Sagan and Cannondale were determined to win today. “Without the great efforts of my teammates, I think I couldn’t take this beautiful win,” Sagan said. “I didn’t celebrate with any particular salutes, but I just pointed out the Cannondale name because this win belongs to my mates more than to me. I read criticism on them because they don’t lead me out in sprints, but today they did a 140-km sprint. It was an incredible action. We planned to work to outdistance the sprinters and to win the intermediate sprint. After that, they said to me, ‘Let’s lead to the finish line to win.’ I have to thank them one by one because they believed in me and they sacrificed for this result.”
In the overall, Impey leads Boasson Hagen by 0:03 and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) by 0:05. The standings will change tomorrow. Stage 8, a 195-km ride from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines, will take the riders over the hors categorie Col de Pailheres (166 km) and the Category 1 ascent to the finish. The flatlanders will go into survival mode, and the GC contenders will assert themselves. A breakaway will probably not decide the stage. The heads of state will battle on the final climb. Who will win? Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff)? Chris Froome (Sky)? Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)? And who will wear the maillot jaune? Froome? Contador? Cadel Evans (BMC)? For the answers to these questions and others, check in at www.roadcycling.com.
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