Tour de France stage 7: Cavendish breaks his duck

Reports of Mark Cavendish‘s demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated, with the Etixx-Quick Step sprinter roaring back to end his two-year winless streak at the Tour de France. The Manxman timed his move out of the slipstream of Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) perfectly, eventually crossing the line with a healthy margin of victory. Ever the bridesmaid (or perhaps the flower girl?), Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) finished third.

St 7 profile

Rider of the day

The Manx Missile has looked less ‘exocet’ and more ‘soggy paper plane’ at the Tour of late, but there can be no doubt that the former world champion was at his battling best as he took victory in the Breton town of Fougères.

It was a rather messy sprint in which the three top-tier sprinters were isolated from their teammates, and Cav emerged as the most intelligent of the lot. Once again detached from lead-out man Mark Renshaw, he fought his way onto Greipel’s wheel and made his move at just the right time. He seemed to be running on his pure racing instinct; for once wasn’t allowed to think too much. At a time when Etixx-Quick Step are struggling to iron out the flaws in their sprint train, that seems to have been to Cav’s benefit.

Four things we noticed

1. Lightweight Cav triumphs uphill. On ITV4’s highlights show last night, they featured an interesting segment with former Tour de France green jersey winner and general Aussie motormouth Robbie McEwen. Like Cav he’s quite a diminutive figure, and won 12 stages of the Tour with cunning riding more than brute force (which is to say he really ought to know what he’s talking about).

In it, McEwen noted Cav’s relatively lightweight figure, and used his surprisingly good second place finish at the hilly British national championships last month as evidence that he’d been shedding a few pounds and perhaps compromising his raw speed in the process. Today offered yet more evidence for McEwen’s theory, though with a rather more positive spin. Cav triumphed on a finish that kicked upwards, and he seemed to be travelling significantly faster than both Greipel and Sagan when he hit the line. What he may have lost on pan flat finishes, Cavendish may have gained on slight inclines.

2. Where was the yellow jersey? Conspicuous by its absence on today’s stage was the famous maillot jaune, with race leader Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) forced into abandoning after breaking his collarbone yesterday. Despite Martin’s overnight exit making Chris Froome (Sky) the de facto race leader, he wasn’t permitted to wear the yellow jersey by the race organisers.

Though he may have decided against wearing it anyway, the commissaires’ logical decision was that Martin led the race until the peloton rolled out of Livarot without him this morning – by which time it was, of course, too late for Froome to change. If you’re wondering how Martin is, the answer is about as well as anyone who’d just broken their collarbone while leading the world’s biggest bike race. He’s had surgery, and seems characteristically upbeat:

3. A triumph for African cycling. MTN-Qhubeka’s Daniel Teklehaimanot made history with his compatriot Merhawi Kudus at the startline of this race in Utrecht, as they became the first ever Eritreans to start the Tour de France. For Teklehaimanot, that alone wasn’t enough of an achievement, and on yesterday’s stage he seized the historic polka dot jersey from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). It’s a classification that he seems to fancy winning – not least after he did so at the recent Dauphiné – and he got into today’s breakaway to pick up the further point on offer.

It’s a brilliant story for Teklehaimanot and African cycling in general. In an interview on Eurosport during today’s stage, MTN-Qhubeka DS Jens Zemke spoke of how the Tour had captured the imagination of Eritrea, with people piling into cinemas to watch their heroes in action. On a day in which abhorrent reports of racism emerged from the Tour of Austria, this is a great story. Long may cycling continue to develop around the world.

4. Sagan for yellow? The optimism surrounding Peter Sagan’s consistently high stage finishes will quickly turn to frustration unless he finally produces something for his palmarès (or perhaps more importantly, something for Oleg Tinkov to brag about on Twitter). The good news is that tomorrow offers a big opportunity for the Slovakian. Greipel and Cavendish are almost certainly going to be dropped on the category three climb up to the finish at Mûr-de-Bretagne, though Sagan should have the legs to be competitive. He’s only 11 seconds behind Froome on GC, and, bearing in mind there are 10 seconds on offer at the finish line, it could be a big day for Sagan.

Stage 7 result

1. Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) 4:27:25

2. Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) same time

3.Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) s/t

4. John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) s/t

5. Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) s/t

General classification

1. Chris Froome (Sky) 26:40:51

2. Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:11

3. Tejay van Garderen (BMC) +0:13

4. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Soudal) +0:26

5. Greg van Avermaet (BMC) +0:28

6. Rigoberto Uran (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:34

7. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) +0:36

8. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-Quick Step) +0:52

9. Geraint Thomas (Sky) +1:03

10. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) +1:07

Points leader: Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

King of the Mountains leader: Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka).

Best young rider: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).

Team classification: BMC.

Link: Official race website

Header image: Mark Cavendish crosses the line (Tour de France/Twitter)

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