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It was another day for the sprinters Friday on Stage 7 of the Tour de France, with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) taking the win by an almost negligible margin over Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data). Michael Matthews of Sunweb was third on the day into Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Maxime Bouet of Fortuneo-Oscaro was the first aggressor of the day from the moment Christian Prudhomme’s neutral flag dropped. Following him was Manuele Mori (UAE Emirates), Yohann Gène (Direct Energie) and Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac). Their margin rose to just under two minutes by kilometer three, but they’d be kept on a short leash by the teams behind.
With 42 kilometers remaining, the fight for position commenced back in the field. A technical entry into the town of Gilly-lès-Cîteaux was directly followed by an exposed section of road with a hard crosswind. Sky imposed themselves at the front of the field and accelerated, stringing out the field on the narrow roads.
After the acceleration in the peloton, the breakaway’s margin decreased to under a minute. Team vehicles were removed from the gap and it looked to be an early conclusion for the men out front.
Philippe Gilbert led the men of Quick-Step Floors to the front with 12 kilometers remaining. Kristoff’s Katusha-Alpecin teammates lined up directly behind the blue train, with Tony Martin at the helm. At the front, Gilbert grimaced as the peloton behind began to slowly stretch out with the increased tempo. After final attempts by Bouet and Mori, the breakaway was finally reeled in at six kilometers to go. Orica-Scott took control with four kilometers remaining– the tailwind plus the savagely fast pace inching the speed of the peloton over 75 kph. It looked to be a hectic finale yet again with Frenchmen Démare and Bouhanni bumping hard inside three kilometers.
The dense battle thinned, however, as the peloton entered the final kilometer, with Jacques Janse van Rensburg taking the front for Dimension Data’s newly nominated sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen. It looked to be a battle between Boasson Hagen and Matthews, but again, Kittel’s final kick of speed inside the last 50 meters brought him the win. Neither Boasson Hagen nor Kittel celebrated at the line, as the win was undetermined until closer examination of the high-speed camera.