72.5km to go
Matej Mohoric and Brent van Moer are onto the next climb of the day, the category four côte de Glux-en-Glenne and their lead has increased ever so slightly on the maillot jaune to 1min 3sec, while Tadej Pogacar and the peloton is another 5min 20sec down the road. Van Moer, by the way, has been hailed as the next Thomas De Gendt by the king of the breakaways himself and has already landed a big win this year at last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné before narrowly missing out, and ultimately being overshadowed by, to Cavendish on Tuesday.
Does Nibali smell blood?
Given the number of injuries to riders in the peloton, it is hardly surprising to see that the rider who is nickname the Shark of Messina is circling here today. Having got into the breakaway the Italian who is one of only seven riders to have won all three grand tours has moved up to fourth in the virtual general classification. Nibali was in action at last month’s Giro d’Italia but failed to do much, hardly surprising considering he broke his wrist just weeks before its start, and one has to start wondering if he could genuinely be a challenger at this year’s Tour? Prior to all of those crashes in the opening weekend I think few will have backed Nibali, but everything has changed. Could the Shark bite back?
80km to go
All change on the front of the peloton and Jumbo-Visma, led by Tony Martin. shift to the front alongside his old sparring partner Luke Rowe (Ineos Grenadiers). Matej Mohoric and Brent van Moer, meanwhile, have stayed out in front after that last climb and currently lead the stage by 21sec, while the maillot jaune is around six minutes ahead of Tadej Pogacar and the rest of the peloton.
Mohoric and Van Moer open mountains accounts
The first categorised climb of the day, the côte de Château Chinon, has been crested with relative ease by the breakaway and Matej Mohoric took the two points on offer on its summit ahead of Brent van Moer who opened his account with the remaining single point up for grabs. Mark Cavendish, by the way, managed to hang on to the coattails of the group as it inched its way up the climb. Most of Cavendish’s racing this year has been in Belgium and so he has not done too much climbing, in fact he told Telegraph Sport a couple of weeks ago that he was flying off to Tuscany for a week – a week! – to get some mountain training in. The mountains could be Cavendish’s Achilles heel at this year’s Tour and so seeing how he copes in these hills today will be very interesting indeed.
As it stands . . .
Right, so what’s happening out on the road? It will surprise few to discover that a quite sizeable breakaway currently leads the stage. The composition of the group, however, may raise a few eyebrows.
There were a flurry of attacks from the beginning of the stage, though it took some time for anything to stick and once it did stick, boy what a group of riders formed in l’échappée royale – look at it: Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), Soren Kragh Andersen (DSM), Kasper Asgreen (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Dylan van Baarle (Ineos Grenadiers), Jan Bakelants (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Franck Bonnamour (B&B Hotels-KTM), Victor Campenaerts (Qhubeka-NextHash), Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step), Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo), Imanol Erviti (Movistar), Iván García Cortina (Movistar), Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), Dorian Godon (Ag2r-Citröen), Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education-Nippo), Hugo Houle (Astana-Premier Tech), Patrick Konrad (Bora-Hansgrohe), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), Xandro Meurisse (Alpecin-Fenix), Brent van Moer (Lotto-Soudal), Matej Mohoric (Bahrain Victorious), Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo), Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), Boy van Poppel (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux), Michael Schär (Ag2r-Citröen), Toms Skujins (Trek-Segafredo), Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Harry Sweeny (Lotto-Soudal), Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma) and Simon Yates (BikeExchange).
Quite astonishingly, the maillot jaune and maillot vert managed to get into the breakaway, as did former grand tour winners Nibali and Yates while Van Aert, who started the day third on general classification, also got involved. I can’t remember seeing the leader at the Tour getting into the day’s breakaway, but then I’ve never really seen an all-round rider in the mould of Van der Poel who just keeps on surprising us all. Aside from these riders, there are plenty of talented riders in this group more than capable of winning today.
Pretty much as soon as the peloton realised the breakaway had gone off up the road, UAE Team Emirates moved their entire squad up the front in an effort to manage their losses. With Tadej Pogacar starting the day second on general classification and looking the dominant rider at this year’s race, particularly following his time trial performance on Wednesday, none of the other teams, your Ineos Grenadiers, your Jumbo-Vismas, your EF Education-Nippos and so forth, appeared to be in no mood to help with any chasing. Some questioned why UAE Team Emirates bothered chasing, but if they did not then those up the road may have gained a huge advantage of 10 minutes-plus. Presumably UAE Team Emirates’s rivals will be more than happy to see them work hard today in the hope that it may tire them ahead of the forthcoming mountain stages.
Anyway, that 29-man group worked well together for the opening couple of hours and managed to gain over five minutes on the peloton before it reached to day’s intermediate sprint in Saint-Benin-d’Azy where Cavendish added to his tally to extend his lead in the points classification. The Briton now leads Jasper Philipsen by 66 points after just seven stages – I think it is same to assume Cavendish will not be taking any further points one the stage reaches the hills.
Once beyond Saint-Benin-d’Azy Cavendish and a few others dropped out of the the breakaway, though after having a few words with the Portuguese Ruben Guerreiro, the Manxman pressed on before getting back on with the stage leaders. Guerreiro, however, drifted back before a few minutes ago regaining contact with the peloton.
With 90km of the stage remaining, the 28-man breakaway holds a 6min 20sec advantage over the peloton as it approached the first climb of the day, the category three côte de Château Chinon. Here’s a reminder of the key numbers from today’s upcoming climbs . . .
So, what’s on today’s menu?
A little like some of the routes we are used to seeing at the Giro d’Italia, today appears, on paper at least, to be a stage of two halves. The opening 150km are relatively flat before a sequence of five categorised climbs help bolster the climbing in the stage which, once the riders reach the line in Le Creusot, will have reached the non inconsiderable total of 3,120 metres in vertical elevation.
Here’s a look at the all-important numbers from those climbs . . .
. . . and a breakdown of what points can be won in the mountains.
But what about those who only have eyes for the green jersey?
Catch-up: Highlights of yesterday’s stage . . .
. . . can be watched here . . .
Hello and welcome to our live rolling blog from stage seven at the Tour de France, the 249.1-kilometre run from Vierzon to Le Creusot.
Following yet another stage that transported cycling fans back over a decade to an era when Mark Cavendish won sprint finishes for fun, today’s stage promises to be a wholly different affair. At 249.1km not only is it the longest at this year’s Tour, but also has more distance than any other day in the world’s biggest bike race for over two decades. Anyway, before we have a look at the route, let’s remind ourselves about the overall state of play in the race.
After finishing safely in the bunch after first helping Alpecin-Fenix team-mate Tim Merlier to challenge for the stage where he was runner-up to Cavendish, Mathieu van der Poel kept his top spot in the general classification and so will again were the maillot jaune, the leader’s yellow jersey. The Dutchman takes an eight-second lead over defending champion Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) into today’s stage, while Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) starts the day third overall, 30sec behind his great rival Van der Poel.
Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quick Step) will wear the maillot vert, the green jersey, for the third day at this year’s Tour, the winner of the 2011 competition, taking a 46-point lead over Philipsen, while Nacer Bouhanni (Arkéa-Samsic) is third another three points back.
Once again, there were no changes in the mountains classification on Thursday, and so for the sixth consecutive day Ide Schelling (Bora-Hasgrohe) will be dressed in the maillot à pois, the polka dot jersey, a competition the Dutchman who was born one metre above sea level has led for five days. He wore it on behalf of Van der Poel for one day.
And finally, Pogacar will again wear the maillot blanc, or the white jersey, as best young rider ahead of Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in second while David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) kept hold of his third spot after what was a quiet day for the general classification riders.