A long, largely downhill, though lumpy stage into the beautiful city of Albi saw Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) take the first of what will assuredly be many grand tour stages. His brilliant long-range sprint obliterated the other sprinters, though runner-up Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) was on his wheel and came close with Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) back in third place. The sprint finish came from the leading group of around 30 riders after echelon action had rent the peloton asunder some 25km from the finish, wrong-footing a number of GC contenders. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) remains in pole position but he now has the INEOS duo of defending champion Geraint Thomas and best young rider Egan Bernal sharing the podium.
Many speculated that today’s flat-ish start and tough-ish stage at the Tour de France invited a breakaway, and given tomorrow’s stage to La Planche des Belles Filles, the peloton might take it easy and give them their head. But no, today’s technical finish favoured the puncheurs as it went up and over two climbs en route to the finish in Colmar, one of the prettiest towns in France. In the final kilometres, Mitchelton-Scott set the pace for European champion Matteo Trentin, who opened his sprint only to fade as perfectly placed Peter Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) pounced, going wide to power past all his rivals and open his account at this year’s Tour. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took second, underlining his sprinting credentials, with Trentin rounding out the podium. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) finished 10th and retains the magnificent golden fleece for another day.
This classic Tour de France dress rehearsal was a largely sodden, slow burner, only coming alight on the weekend’s short, sharp mountain stages after a mid-way time-trial had exposed the GC contenders. Astana’s Jakob Fuglsang seized the leader’s jersey with a late attack on stage 7, which he easily retained on the final stage, despite a handful of riders being within a minute of him. The podium was rounded out by runner-up Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) and third-placed Emanuel Buchmann (BORA-hansgrohe) who both survived the weather-related culling of GC contenders.