AS IT HAPPENED: Tour de France stage 7: Mark Cavendish gets another record breaking chance

After two thrillers in the Pyrenees its another day for the sprinters as the race heads to Bordeaux

Well, we have a race on our hands. In case you've not been paying attention, the last two days in the Pyrenees were a real slug-fest between the GC heavyweights (who actually don't weigh that much).

Today, however, none of that matters. The stage today should be a sprinters affair and the big question is can anyone beat Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) and he all conquering lead-out, central to which is Mathieu van der Poel.

Caleb Ewan has looked like the closest to the Belgian so far. Can the Australian go one step further? Can Mark Cavendish get that historic 35th stage win?

Lets find out.

The bunch on stage seven of the 2023 Tour de France from Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux

(Image credit: Anne-Christine Poujoulat / Getty)

Today's route

There is one category four climb on the parcours today but its not enough to give the sprinters any real trouble coming 40km from the finish.

This should be a fairly straight-forward affair for their teams, though some have been depleted by injuries and retirements.

Tour de France 2023 route profiles

(Image credit: ASO)

Sep Vanmarcke retires immediately

Sep Vanmarcke at the Belgian national championships 2023

(Image credit: Luc Claessen / Getty)

Away from the Tour de France Israel-Premier Tech has announced that veteran classics rider Sep Vanmercke has retired with immediate effect due to heart issues.

The Belgian, who won Omloop het Nieuwsblad in his career and was second at Paris-Roubaix, noticed an abnormally high heart rate on a ride recently.

The team added: "Vanmarcke underwent testing including a cardiac MRI which confirmed the presence of scar tissue. The high risk of further cardiac complications posed by the scar tissue means that Vanmarcke will no longer be able to continue racing as a professional cyclist."

Vanmarcke said: “When I pinned a number for the first time back in 2003, I never dared to dream about having a professional career. I ended up living that dream for 14 years, with highs and lows."

He said he "wasn’t the super talent" but that "dedication and hard work" had kept him at the top of the sport. 

He continued: “It is very sad and painful to announce the end of my career in this way. At the same time, I am grateful that the problems with my heart were discovered in time. I’m going to take the time now to be with my family, to accept the situation and think about what I want to do in the future. My whole life has been all about cycling. Cycling will always be my passion.”

With 57 appearances as a stage finish and 33 as a stage start town, Bordeaux is one of the most visited cities on the race. 

That said, it hasn't featured on the Tour de France since 2010 when – guess who? – Mark Cavendish won the sprint finish there when he rode for Team HTC-Columbia.

With another sprint finish on the cards, that fact surely won't be lost on the Manxman, who is hoping to register a record 35th stage victory in what will be his final Tour de France.

Mark Cavendish winning stage 18 of the 2010 Tour de France from Salies-de-Béarn to Bordeaux, ahead of Julian Dean and Alessandro Petacchi.

Mark Cavendish wins stage 18 of the 2010 Tour de France in Bordeaux

(Image credit: Tim De Waele / Getty)

The KoM of today's single categorised climb, the Côte de Beguey, is Christophe Laporte (Jumbo-Visma), who will be racing up it again today.

The Frenchman secured his KoM spot in 2021, again in the Tour de France, when the race went over it on stage 19.

The climb's stats are 1.16km at 4.45%, which Laporte managed in an impressive 2.04.

169.9km to go: And the riders set out from Mont-de-Marsan on the départ fictif. The crowds are out, the weather looks amazing – the scene is set.

Today's stage heads roughly north from Mont-de-Marsan, skirting the Bassin Aquitain on its way up to Bordeaux, all in the south-west of the country.

Aurélien Paret-Peintre (AG2R-Citroën) perfectly demonstrates the warmth of the day – around 30deg C – with an ice pack on the back of his neck.

169.9km to go: And the stage is go! Riders attacking immediately.

168km to go: Three riders out front, looking rather reluctant. No one behind looking at all keen to join them.

165km to go: Arkéa's Simon Gugliemi has been left on his own out front now as his fellow breakaways head back to the bunch. But Frenchman Gugliemi has put his head down. Looks fairly committed. This could be a long time trial for him.

162km to go: One of the breakaways who had thrown in the towel – Mathieu Burgaudeau of TotalEnergies – explains that, apparently, his DS wasn't happy with the composition of the break and sent him back to the bunch.

Meanwhile Gugliemi has quickly built a 2.21 gap over a languid bunch.

159km to go: Mathieu Van Der Poel and Tadej Pogačar having a friendly chat just off the back of the bunch. Planning world cycling domination, perhaps?

157km to go: Matthias Skjelmose and Alex Kirsch of Lidl-Trek showing off their national champions' jerseys (Denmark and Luxembourg respectively) at the front of the bunch. Now where's Quinn Simmons?

Bora-Hansgrohe directeur Enrico Gasparotto explains the team strategy with Jai Hindley, having already won – and lost – the yellow jersey.

"We set a realistic goal that could be the final podium in Paris. We have to be honest as Jonas [Vingegaard] and Tadej [Pogačar] are looking really strong and superior.

"The fact that we are only 1.34 from the yellow jersey we take as an advantage – I think everything is going quite well for us. The goal is to stay there.

"[Tadej and Jonas] proved that they are superior but in cycling you never know what is going to happen in the two weeks that are still ahead of us."

152km to go: Simon Gugliemi's gap is growing inexorably – it's now out to 5.30.

So who is Gugliemi? He's 26, turned pro with Groupama-FDJ in 2020 after riding for a year with its development squad.

A win today would be by far the biggest ride of his career as he is, in fact, still waiting for a first pro victory. Of course, the sprinters and their teams are likely to veto any such hopes.

Some of his best results so far include eighth on GC in the Baby Giro in 2019, and seventh on a stage of the Vuelta a España last year.

150km to go: 6.23 now for Gugliemi. It's going out by a second per second right now.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ's GC hope) is really looking forward to the Puy de Dôme on Sunday, he says. 

"We could see some really big gaps."

Anything can happen when riders are tired, he points out.

The Frenchman currently lies seventh at 4.03.

145 to go: Looks like Lotto-Dstny has decided Gugliemi has enough rope at 7.06 and has come to the front to start controlling the gap.

It has sprinter Caleb Ewan, who will be hoping to win today for the first time since 2020 in Poitiers on stage 11.

135km to go: The gap is back down to 4.53 now and continues to fall. Lotto-Dstny's riding is clearly working at the front of the bunch.

The Jumbo-Visma riders all know their individual sweat losses, explains team head of nutrition Martijn Redegeld. On today's hot outing they're going to be particularly focused on taking on fluids, plus cooling with ice and ice lollies, apparently. Calippo, anyone?*

*Other brands are available.

132km to go: Lotto-Dstny continues to ride on the front, with Gugliemi's gap dropping to 4.12 now.

Jumbo-Visma DS Grischa Niermann offers his reflections on the battle between his rider Jonas Vingegaard, and Tadej Pogačar:

"I'm not surprised [how good he was on stage six]. But we he hoped to drop him on the Tourmalet and that didn't work out.

"We had payback for the day before and chapeau to him, he did a great race, but also I think we put on a great show and also Jonas [Vingegaard] was very, very good. But Tadej was on a much better level than the day before.

"But I think it will be a big fight between these two guys, and once again they showed they were on another level to the rest."

111km to go: The peloton has lowered the gap to Gugliemi to 3.35 now. Yellow jersey Jonas Vingegaard looks relaxed in the bunch, chatting to Jumbo-Visma team-mate Nathan Hooydonck.

99km to go: UAE Team Emirates and Astana Qazaqstan taking on feeling musettes as they go through km70. Lotto-Dstny still plugging away at the front, with the gap to Gugliemi now below three minutes at 2.55.

The three kilometre rule has been extended to 3.6km today, to take account of all the technical aspects as the riders approach the finish. There are a multitude of bends, some of them very tight, and organisers don't want a repeat of the crash strewn finish at Nogaro on stage four.

The three kilometre rule, by the way, means a rider who crashes inside this last stretch will still be awarded the same time as the group they were in at the 3km mark.

Spectators on stage seven of the 2023 Tour de France from Mont-de-Marsan to Bordeaux

Pure Tour de France, as spectators seated at a picnic table enjoy a grandstand view of the riders as they push on towards Bordeaux

(Image credit: Thomas Samson / Getty)

83km to go: The day's single intermediate sprint is on the horizon. Gugliemi goes through first of course (he still has 1.58), but things are livening up back in the bunch.

It's an arrow straight road through the trees of south-west France. The bunch can likely see Gugliemi even though he must be around a kilometre ahead.

Mads Pedersen goes, then Jasper Philipsen and now Biniam Girmay... Girmay claims the second place in the sprint behind Gugliemi.

The full result:

Grignols Sprint:
1. Simon Gugliemi (Arkéa-Samsic) 20 pts
2. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) 17 pts
3. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) 15 pts

It sees Philipsen extend his lead in the points competition with 165 pts over Bryan Coquard (Cofidis, 117 pts), with Wout Van Aert third (95 pts)

All that sprinting action in the bunch cut Gugliemi's gap in half to something eminently bridgeable. It's now 58sec, with Nans Peters (AG2R-Citroën) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) jumping out of the bunch in an attempt to bridge it.

71km to go: Peters, Latour and Gugliemi are all together now, but the peloton is chasing hard with the gap down to just 33sec.

They won't want to make the catch yet though – if they did, it would only prompt more attacks, causing a serious headache for the very sprinters' teams who are currently controlling that gap.

58km to go: The bunch has happily allowed the gap to the break to reach 1.15. That said, there are riders from Soudal-Quick Step (for Fabio Jakobsen), Lotto-Dstny (for Caleb Ewan) and Jayco-AlUla (for Dylan Groenewegen) patrolling the front of the peloton, ready to bring the break back just as soon as they decided they need to.

Or at least try – the trio up front are riding very purposefully.

Mathieu Van Der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) talks about his role as a leadout man for Jasper Philipsen. "It makes things interesting for me".

"I try to do my best. For sure it's nice to work for someone like Jasper as well, who is one of the fastest of the bunch. We have a go with the green jersey and I'm happy to help with it.

Trust is key, he says: "He follows me without doubt, and he trusts me know we've done it a couple of times. It makes it easier for me as well, though I'm also taking risks. If it was for nothing I would maybe not do it every time, but if you get a nice bonus it's nice.

"The sprint stages [I'm] without a goal to be honest, so it makes it interesting for me as well."

Philipsen has won twice now, with Van Der Poel's help – once in Bayonne on stage three and once in Nogaro on stage four. Is he the favourite for today? The short answer is yes.

56km to go: Flat tyre for Mark Cavendish, who is being paced back to the bunch by two team-mates. And, speak of the devil, Mathieu Van Der Poel also had a bike change. 

44km to go: Wout Van Aert and Mathieu Van Der Poel having what looks like the friendliest of chats back in the bunch. That said, the time to the break has now come down to 45sec, so no one's hanging about.


"I'm a bit nervous actually. It's another opportunity, but it's been nice to me, Bordeaux, before. I won in 2010, so we'll try and do the same today.

"It'll be a different dynamic to then. There weren't many leadout teams back in them days. It'll be a little bit more chaotic today I think. But it's a nice boulevard sprint just as I like it. We'll see what happens."

The strategy, he explained, was just about getting the right position: "It's just about staying up there, to put it simply. The problem is everyone else wants to stay up there.

He had good legs, he said: "I got through the Pyrenees quite alright. The boys looked after me really well."

27km to go: The kilometres are rattling past, with the French trio still out front and the gap back up to 1.14. Another 10km or so and it will be coming down rapidly, I'd predict.

24km to go: In fact, Gugliemi is done for the day. He's back in the peloton. All that time out front clearly caught up with him. Peters and Latour still out there though, the gap being 1.07.

15km to go: Things getting a lot more urban now as the race approaches Bordeaux along the Garonne river. The gap is tumbling too – it's 37sec to the pair out front now. The bunch will want them caught before things get technical in the final few kilometres.

10km to go: The pair of escapees are clearly in no mood to capitulate, their body language betraying the obvious effort they are putting in to staying away. Behind, the peloton remains at 31sec, but 10km is a long way to go in this situation.

9km to go: Gap down to 19sec now. The roundabouts have started.

8km to go: Jumbo-Visma right up the front, with Jonas Vingegaard third wheel in that particular line. Right on the yellow jersey's wheel is, of course, Tadej Pogačar. They're leaving nothing to chance.

7km to go: Another roundabout, it strings the bunch right out.

The break is in clear sight now at 12sec.

6km to go: No sprint for Van Aert today, he's been dropped.

Peters sits up, leaving Latour to go it alone.

4km to go: Latour within about five seconds now. He's still giving it his all.

3km to go: Latour caught as the bunch takes a hard right-hander. They're inside that 3.6km safety zone now.

2.5km to go: Alpecin takes the front on the left side with Philipsen third wheel. 

1.2km to go: Groenewegen and Ewan coming up to the front into position, Girmay's there too. Where's Cavendish?

Massive leadout from MVDP!

Cavendish sprang out the pack, victory looking almost certain, but then Philipsen sweeps past to claim a third win in the final metres.

Jasper Philipsen wins.

Cavendish just faded in the last 20 metres, slowing down as Philipsen was accelerating. Second place for Cavendish, third for Biniam Girmay.

It wasn't Cavendish's day today, but this performance shows he is far from done with this Tour de France.

Jonas Vingegaard and Tadej Pogačar over the line safely too.

And breathe!

Thanks for keeping us company here. What a finale.

Stage report on its way.

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