What. A. Stage. So often grand tour racing seduces us with a promising parcours and riders full of intent. So often we’re let down as teams play it safe and we’re left with a race as predictable as a superhero movie at the local multiplex.
But not today! Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) took a superb solo win in Saint-Etienne, holding off a fast-charging Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep). The dashing Frenchman retakes the maillot jaune for Bastille Day, while Pinot has done his chances no harm whatsoever climbing to third on GC.
As the Tour de France’s first true “transitional” stage this year, stage 7 marked the longest stage of the 2019 edition at a monstrous 231 kilometres. If you are reading this write-up because other previous engagements prevented you from watching live or you simply fell asleep during the stage, count yourself lucky. As I write this, I’m left questioning myself on why I woke up with 100km from the finish. It truly was one of those stages where one could’ve turned on the television with 2km to go and not missed a thing. With that said, please do keep reading, because I promise I’ve gone to great lengths to make this worth something.
It was heralded as the hardest stage in the Tour de France this year (by Dan Martin, amongst others) with seven categorised climbs in 160km and it was predicted to separate the wheat from the chaff by the time they reached the summit of La Planche des Belles Filles. And while it took until that last climb to bring the GC group to life, there was plenty of fireworks once they did wake up. But it was a duo who had been out in the break all day who have their names written in the Tour’s history books tonight. Neck-and-neck until the flamme rouge and the gravelled climb to the finish, Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Merida) proved to be the strongest, leaving Trek-Segafredo’s Giulio Ciccone in his dust (literally), as he crossed the line. But Ciccone didn’t go away empty-handed, donning the maillot jaune at the end of the day.