Stage 7: Montpellier to Albi, 205.5km
Cannondale lit up this medium mountain stage to put the sprinters to the sword. They executed what amounted to a 130km lead-out to put the Velvet Samurai, Peter Sagan, in position to win his first stage of the 2013 Tour and establish a dominant position atop the green jersey standings.
A thin green line of Cannondale jerseys took up permanent residence on the front of the peloton on the approach to the second and biggest climb of the day, the Col de la Croix de Mounis, as they hunted down the breakaway pairing of Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale). Their pace quickly detached a couple of groups off the back containing rival sprinters Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel, and easily reeled in the break ahead of the day’s intermediate sprint, with Sagan easily claiming the maximum 20 points.
A subsequent three-man break formed, comprising former yellow jersey Jan Bakelants (RadioShack), Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Juan Jose Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi). Cannondale kept their pace high, less to control the deficit to the lead trio than to ensure the chasing 35-man gruppetto was unable to bridge. Sure enough, they never got closer than two minutes and eventually gave up the chase with about 40km remaining.
The gap to the break held at around a minute before being gently reeled in, with the catch occurring just inside 3km. Cannondale continued to set the tempo under the flamme rouge and although Argos-Shimano dropped off John Degenkolb in position to launch a long-range sprint, Sagan was alive to the danger, jumping immediately on to and then out from his wheel to take victory by over a bike length, with Saxo-Tinkoff’s Daniele Bennati third.
rider team of the day
Sagan applied the coup de grâce, but it was his Cannondale team who rode on the front virtually unaided for three hours to set him up for both the win and a maximum 65 points in the green jersey competition on a day when his main rivals mustered zero – yes, zero – between them. Unless there is a major turnaround, we will look back on this stage as the day Sagan laid claim to his second consecutive green jersey. He now leads the classification by a massive 94 points – more than two clear stage victories.
So, instead of a single rider of the day, we have a team of the day. Take a bow: Maciej Bodnar, Alessandro de Marchi, Kristijan Koren, Alan Marangoni, Moreno Moser, Fabio Sabatini and Brian Vandborg. And then have a well-earned rub-down after an immense day in the saddle. Chapeau.
Opinion & analysis
This was a massive and impressive show of strength from Cannondale and Sagan, highlighting not only the Slovak’s climbing prowess but also the value of not having a GC contender. Last year they had the twin focus of Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali. If the same had been the case today, would they have poured so much energy into distancing Sagan’s rivals ahead of the first summit finish in the Pyrenees tomorrow? It seems unlikely.
Sagan might still have won the stage, but it’s more likely that at least some of the big sprinters would have survived to contest the finish, or at least the intermediate sprint. It took a sustained 100% effort from the full Cannondale team to put enough of a gap into the gruppetto to prevent them from recovering on the long 40km run from the summit to the intermediate sprint. As Mark Cavendish put it:
Kind of knew what Cannondale would do today, but no way to prevent it. They rode faultlessly. Congratulations to @petosagan. #machine
— Mark Cavendish (@MarkCavendish) July 5, 2013
The polka dot jersey was the only one to change hands today, although it still resides with a French rider on a French team. Ag2r’s Blel Kadri led over the first two climbs to displace Europcar’s Pierre Rolland by a single point. A big assist goes to Kadri’s teammate Romain Bardet, who chased Rolland down on the Croix de Mounis to deny him the additional point which would have kept him in the jersey on countback.
Kadri’s tenure is likely to be short-lived, however, with his current total of 12 points dwarfed tomorrow by the 25 available on the Col de Pailheres and the 20 at the finish on Ax 3 Domaines. The initial sparring is over. While the battle for the green jersey has already taken shape, the real race for the polka dot jersey – and the yellow – begins tomorrow.
Stage 7 result
1. Peter Sagan (Cannondale) 4:54:12
2. John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) same time
3. Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) s/t
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) s/t
1. Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEDGE) 27:12:29
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) +0:03
3. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE) +0:05
4. Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEDGE) same time
5. Michal Kwaitkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:06
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) s/t
7. Chris Froome (Sky) +0:08
8. Richie Porte (Sky) +0:08
9. Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:14
10. Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) +0:14
Green jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Polka dot jersey: Blel Kadri (Ag2r La Mondiale).
White jersey: Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).
Team classification: Orica-GreenEDGE.
Link: Official website