Matteo Trentin wins in a photo finish, Nibali secures a sixth day in yellow

by Matt de Neef


Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) has taken his second stage win in as many editions of the Tour de France, sprinting to victory at the head of a reduced peloton into Nancy on stage 7. The result was decided in a photo finish with Trentin leading the ever-consistent Peter Sagan (Cannondale) over the line by roughly a centimetre.

At 234km in length, stage 7 was the second longest day of the 2014 Tour de France. Stretching from Epernay to Nancy, the stage parcours was almost entirely flat, save for two short climbs in the final 20km of the race. It wasn’t until the riders reached those two climbs that the real action started to unfold.

When the flag dropped in Epernay there was the usual flurry of attacks as riders set off in search of some TV time but it wasn’t until 14km into the stage that the day’s main breakaway got itself settled. The group featured all of the race’s wildcard teams and a total of six riders: Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Seche), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura), Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing).

The leaders were able to get themselves four minutes clear of the peloton without any resistance but once the lead got beyond four minutes, the riders of team Cannondale came to the front to control proceedings. Their man Peter Sagan was one of the big favourites for the stage.

After 54km of racing, and with 180km remaining, the gap was down to 2:50 and Cannondale was still well in control. The gap steadied at around 2:30 for the next 40km or so, until it dipped below two minutes for the first time with 125km still to race.

With a little more than 100km left in the stage crosswinds and the efforts of Cannondale split the peloton slightly, but it was only a handful of riders at the back that got caught out.

The day’s intermediate sprint was contested in Hannonville Sous-les-Cotes some 86km from the finish and it was Martin Elmiger that took a sort-of sprint in the group of six leaders.

In the main field Peter Sagan was sticking his nose out into the wind in search of more points in the green jersey classification, but only half-heartedly, getting beaten to the line by Bryan Coquard (Europcar) and Mark Renshaw (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). The would-be intermediate sprint saw the six leaders’ advantage brought down to 50 seconds.

With a little less than 65km left to race Nicolas Edet attacked solo from the breakaway, clearly unimpressed with the ever-dwindling gap to the main field. He didn’t last long out front, getting caught within 5km.

A short time later Astana came to the front of the peloton to join Cannondale and Tinkoff-Saxo, preparing to keep race leader Vincenzo Nibali safe on the climbs ahead. With 50km to go, the peloton was back within 40 seconds of the six leaders.

An attack from Martin Elmiger saw the lead group fracture — Bartosz Huzarski was the only one to join him, while Pichot, Delaplace, Edet and Busche all sat up and were swallowed by the peloton 40km from the finish line.

The renewed efforts of Elmiger and Huzarski saw the duo’s lead swell to 1:22 by the time there was 36km left to race, but with the day’s only climbs approaching, the peloton was starting to take things a little more seriously. The gap was down below 30 seconds with 26km left to race.

The two leaders were caught a little inside 20km from the finish and as the riders hit the first of the day’s climbs — the 3.2 km, fourth category Cote de Maron — Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) danced away from the main field. His escape was short-lived, being caught by the Simon Yates-led peloton. Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) took the only point on offer at the top of the climb with 17km to go.

A crash in the peloton with 16km to the finish saw BMC duo Tejay van Garderen and Darwin Atapuma among a handful of riders to hit the tarmac. Atapuma abandoned the race while van Garderen was joined by three teammates in an attempt to pace him back to the peloton.

In the main field the pace was on, thanks to the efforts of Omega Pharma-QuickStep and Cannondale. When they hit the base of the second and final climb — the 1.3km fourth category Cote de Boufflers — Cyril Gautier attacked as his teammate Voeckler had, lasting a similarly short amount of time out front.

Just before the summit of the climb Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) attacked; a seemingly strange move with his team’s GC leader fighting to get back on terms behind. Van Avermaet took the single KOM point on offer and with Sagan on his wheel — the Slovak had been leading the peloton — the two had a slight gap as they descended into the final 5km.

Sagan did the majority of the work but appeared caught in two minds; was it worth giving it everything at the risk of having nothing left if the pair got caught? Or was it better to sit up, get caught, recharge, then contest the sprint? The Slovakian opted for the latter, getting caught by the peloton around the time a crash took out a handful of riders further back.

Coming into the final kilometre it was Omega Pharma-QuickStep on the front with Michal Kwiatkowski leading two teammates, including Matteo Trentin. Sagan, meanwhile, had managed to find his way back to fourth wheel and looked poised for another solid finish.

With 300m to go Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) crashed when Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) came across his line and ahead of them Matteo Trentin was launching his sprint, followed by Peter Sagan. Sagan left it late to come around the Italian and didn’t quite get there, the Italian taking the win in a photo finish.

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Despite the best efforts of his teammates, and a little bit of help from Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), BMC’s GC hopeful Tejay van Garderen wasn’t able to catch back on and lost roughly a minute by the time he crossed the finish line.

Vincenzo Nibali finished with the lead bunch in 16th place, maintaining his two-second lead in the general classification over teammate Jakob Fuglsang. Peter Sagan remains in third overall, 44 seconds adrift after another top-five finish. In seven stages so far Sagan’s placings have been: 2,4,2,4,4,5,2.

That consistency sees Sagan leading the points classification by a comfortable margin, in addition to his lead in the best young rider classification. Cyril Lemoine (Cofidis) holds on to his lead in the KOM classification ahead of the race’s first mountain stage tomorrow.

The 161km stage takes the riders from Tomblaine to Gerardmer with two second category climbs in the final 30km and a steep 1.8km climb to the finish.

Previous stage reports

– Stage 1: Marcel Kittel takes Tour opener as Cavendish and Gerrans crash
– Stage 2: Vincenzo Nibali wins in Sheffield and takes Tour lead overall
– Stage 3: Marcel Kittel doubles up in London, Nibali holds on to yellow
– Stage 4: Marcel Kittel claims his third stage as Vincenzo Nibali defends yellow
– Stage 5: Lars Boom wins on the cobbles of stage 5 as Chris Froome crashes out
– Stage 6: Andre Greipel sprints to victory on stage 6, Nibali holds steady in yellow

Stage results

[rrresults format=’full’ id=’124214′]

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