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by Dane Cash
September 5, 2020
Photography by Cor Vos
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Wout van Aert powered to his second victory of this year’s Tour de France on a stage 7 that featured no shortage of action despite its seemingly tame parcours.
The marquee sprinters in the peloton were dropped very early on the stage as Bora-Hansgrohe put in a big turn of pace on the day’s first climb, and the reduced peloton eventually opened an unbridgeable gap to those chasing in two main groups behind. Then, with around 40 kilometers to go, crosswinds blew that reduced peloton apart. Big names like Tadej Pogacar and Mikel Landa were among those caught behind splits, and although two groups of chasers joined together, those behind were unable to close down the gap. Richard Carapaz would then suffer an untimely puncture, dropping back to the chasing group as well.
What was left of the pack battled for the stage victory in a sprint, with van Aert topping Edvald Boasson Hagen and Bryan Coquard to nab the victory. Despite the hard work of his Bora team, Peter Sagan dropped his chain in the finale and finished 13th. He did, at least, retake the green jersey from Sam Bennett on the day.
Pogacar, Carapaz, and Landa rolled across the line 1:21 down. Adam Yates finished safely with the leaders to retain his yellow jersey with Primoz Roglic still in second and Guillaume Martin now third overall after Pogacar’s drop down the GC standings.
The 168-kilometer stage from Millau to Lavaur saw action right from the start. A handful of riders tried to get clear of the peloton in the early goings, with the Côte de Luzençon seeming like a fitting place for the day’s breakaway to solidify, but Bora had other plans. The German squad drilled it at the front on the third-category climb, dropping the likes of Bennett, Caleb Ewan, Giacomo Nizzolo, Cees Bol, Alexander Kristoff, and others.
The chasers would form groups as Bora continued to push the pace onto the next (uncategorized) climb, with Bennett’s group looking at times like it was close to reconnecting with the peloton—but those behind could not fully close down the gap. Eventually, it began to grow. By the top of the Col de Peyronnenc at a little over 70 kilometers into the stage, it was clear that sprinters were not coming back.
Thomas De Gendt pushed clear from the pack following the climb and spent more than an hour off the front, but the peloton worked to keep the gap very small.
With around 50 kilometers to go, Pogacar suffered a mechanical and then Landa went down in a crash with his Bahrain-McLaren teammates. Under other circumstances, the incidents might not have led to any time losses, but with 40 kilometers to go, the peloton hit an exposed stretch of the route with a strong cross tailwind. De Gendt was reeled in, and with Ineos pushing the pace, the peloton quickly split into echelons. Pogacar, Landa, and the Trek-Segafredo duo of Bauke Mollema and Richie Porte were among those caught out, and those still in front began working with Ineos to build the advantage, opening clear gap on the chasers.
Unfortunately for Ineos, Carapaz punctured inside the final 20 kilometers, and although the team sent Jonathan Castroviejo back to help, they were unable to rejoin the leaders, ultimately drifting back into a chase group.
NTT led the way as the select group at the front pulled into the finale, but Boasson Hagen was left to launch his sprint perhaps earlier than he would have wanted. Julian Alaphilippe briefly challenged at the front before he made contact with Jasper Stuyven and then dropped back. In the final hundred meters, Van Aert surged on the right side of the road and pulled ahead to take the win.
“I’m really proud of this one. Straight from the gun it was all out actually,” van Aert said after the dramatic day of racing. “I have to say, impressive stage from Bora-Hansgrohe. They went flat out on the first KOM and made sure that a lot of sprinters were dropped already. Afterwards it was always hectic. Everybody always feared the crosswinds. In the final we saw it was worth it to put a lot of energy into positioning. I think I was with Primoz the whole stage in the front. Good day for the team.”
Top 10, stage 7
1 VAN AERT Wout (Team Jumbo-Visma) 3:32:03
2 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald (NTT Pro Cycling)
3 COQUARD Bryan (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept p/b KTM)
4 LAPORTE Christophe (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits)
5 STUYVEN Jasper (Trek – Segafredo)
6 VENTURINI Clément (AG2R La Mondiale)
7 HOFSTETTER Hugo (Israel Start-Up Nation)
8 BERNAL Egan (INEOS Grenadiers)
9 YATES Adam (Mitchelton-Scott)
10 VALVERDE Alejandro (Movistar Team)
Top 10, GC
1 YATES Adam (Mitchelton-Scott) 30:36:00
2 ROGLIC Primoz (Team Jumbo-Visma) 0:03
3 MARTIN Guillaume (Cofidis, Solutions Crédits) 0:09
4 BERNAL Egan (INEOS Grenadiers) 0:13
5 DUMOULIN Tom (Team Jumbo-Visma)
6 QUINTANA Nairo (Team Arkéa Samsic)
7 BARDET Romain (AG2R La Mondiale)
8 LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel (Astana Pro Team)
9 PINOT Thibaut (Groupama – FDJ)
10 URÁN Rigoberto (EF Pro Cycling)
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Today’s featured image of Wout van Aert winning stage 7 of the Tour de France comes from Cor Vos.