Almost a week after a crash late in the stage ruined his chances of taking the opening day’s stage, Dylan Groenewegen got his first win of the 2019 Tour de France.  Groenwegen took the stage ahead of Caleb Ewan and Peter Sagan.

After the change in the maillot jaune yesterday, Giulio Ciccone of Trek-Segafredo started the day in yellow; on a day where little was expected to change overall.  The 230km from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône were primed for the sprinters after a rolling opening 120km or so.  Two category 4 climbs and a third category climb made for something to target for the breakaway riders, but the questions would be around whether the peloton would catch the break before the intermediate sprint that featured with 34km to go.

No sooner had the flag dropped than the break of the day immediately established itself at the front of the race with Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Gobert and Stéphane Rossetto of Cofidis, Solutions Crédits forming the move with no challenge at all from behind them.  The break quickly opened up a lead that exceeded 2 minutes.

What was supposed to be a formality of an opening few hours for the peloton turned out to be quite the opposite for EF Education First’s Tejay van Garderen and Jumbo-Visma’s stage 1 winner Mike Teunissen.  Both riders were slow in remounting, with Van Garderen nursing injuries to his face.  They both succeeded in climbing back on their bikes, benefiting from the slow pace within the peloton; and both would finish the stage, although the American was visibly in a lot of discomfort.

George Bennett gets ready for the start of stage 7. He still sits 4th overall, photo Sirotti

The teams of Deceuninck-Quick Step, Jumbo-Visma and Lotto Soudal all had riders up towards the front of the race, with Groupama-FDJ the first train in the peloton just behind the sprint teams’ delegates.  With 180km to go the advantage of Offredo and Rossetto was sitting at around 4.40mins and that seemed to be the extent of the peloton’s generosity towards the duo who faced a long day in the saddle before what would surely be an inevitable catch before the sprint unfolded.

Back in the peloton there was no urgency required in what would surely be an easy chase for the peloton at this stage in the race.  Little changed in the peloton in terms of structure and position, with the break’s lead dropped to a little over 3 minutes as the race reached the final 100km and continued to drop to 2.30mins with 85km remaining and down to 2 minutes with 75km to go.

Offredo and Rossetto made it to the intermediate sprint, with the peloton still 1.20mins behind as they arrived and upped the pace.  Bahrain Merida took on the lead out, with Peter Sagan ready to launch from there but more occupied with marking Elia Viviani and Michael Matthews.  Sonny Colbrelli took the sprint for third and that seemed to be the catalyst for the break’s lead evaporating, with the peloton keeping the pace high and finally seeing a split in the peloton put Dan Martin, Nairo Quintana and Wout Van Aert placed under pressure briefly in the trailing group.

Giulio Ciccone and Peter Sagan compare colours before stage 7, photo Sirotti

Eventually the small group – that at one point was 30 seconds behind the peloton – closed back up with the peloton.  Up ahead Offredo and Rossetto continued to lead, but just when the catch seemed to be certain and swift the bunch pulled the brakes and allowed the duo to grow their lead to around 30 seconds again before reeling them back in.

Astana had their riders towards the front of the peloton, with BORA-Hansgrohe and Team Ineos also present, but there continued to be the constance of Deceuninck-Quick Step’s Kasper Asgreen, Jumbo-Visma’s Tony Martin and Lotto Soudal’s Maxime Monfort leading the peloton.  Just when it looked certain that the breakaway would be caught with 13km to go Offredo made one final kick to make sure he was the last man to be reeled back in with 12.5km remaining.

From here the fight for position was on as more and more the trains began to emerge.  BORA-Hansgrohe were among the most prominent at the front along with Team Sunweb.  With 7km to go and with the road narrowing, Team Ineos hit the front and drove the field onwards, keeping Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal out of trouble very effectively; before Deceuninck-Quick Step challenged them for the front.  With 5km to go Wout Van Aert, previously the best young rider, had the lead of the pack and he kept a strong tempo that was almost touching 70kph. 

Geraint Thomas looks comfortable as he crosses the finish line, photo Sirotti

Impressively from Van Aert, the Belgian led the peloton all the way up through to 2.2km to go before he pulled aside; allowing Amund Grøndahl Jansen to come through. Through the tight, narrow turn with 1.6km to go Jansen was in the lead followed by BORA-Hansgrohe and then his Jumbo-Visma teammates.

Marcus Burghardt took over under the 1km to go banner with Deceuninck-Quick Step poised and ready to strike.  They eventually led out the sprint, with Peter Sagan ready to strike from behind Elia Viviani.  Groenewegen had the wheel of Caleb Ewan, but the Dutchman struck alongside the pocket rocket Ewan; with the two flanking Peter Sagan who found himself fading into third place.  The photo finish would decide matters, confirming that the Dutchman had just secured his fourth career Tour de France stage win; and the third this year for Jumbo-Visma.

Giulio Ciccone continues to lead overall, 6 seconds ahead of Julian Alaphilippe, 32 seconds ahead of Dylan Teuns; and 47 seconds clear of George Bennett in fourth.

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