Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) won stage seven of the 2018 Tour de France, beating Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) in a head to head sprint for the line.
The Dutchman took his second career victory at the Tour after winning on the Champs-Élysées last year, making a late move to beat the on form Gaviria who had been dropped off at the front by his lead out man Max Richeze.
Groenewegen came from behind the wheel of European champion Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) to pass Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Gaviria, who was leading.
There was no response from any of them to the turn of speed produced by Groenewegen, who left Gaviria settling for second place and Sagan in third.
Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) grabbed fourth spot ahead of Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), with Britain’s Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) having to settle for 10th place despite being placed well by his team-mates.
Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) retained the yellow jersey, adding three seconds to his advantage thanks to a bonus sprint with 30km to go.
The main GC contenders all finished safely within the front group to retain their spots overall.
How it happened
The riders set off from Fougères for the longest stage of the 2018 Tour de France, with a 231km route that was expected to end in a sprint in Chartres.
From the outset it looked like the riders were set for an easy day, with Wanty-Groupe Gobert the only team eyeing a day in the breakaway.
Frenchman Yoann Offredo made the first break of the day from the drop of the flag, but that was short lived before his team-mate Thomas Degand then went out alone. He rode for some time on his own but clearly couldn’t face over 200km on his own out front and soon sat up to wait for the bunch.
That catch instigated a short-lived moment of racing, when an elite breakaway group led by Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) went clear. That group didn’t work too well together though, and with all the sprinters’ teams represented except LottoNL-Jumbo, the Dutch team quickly assembled to chase it down.
Once that was brought back, Offredo was at it again with 194km to go and managed to get clear. He established a gap of over seven minutes at one point while the peloton chatted between themselves.
The gap to the lone escapee gradually reduced, but was almost completely close as Ag2r kicked the racing into life on a straight section of rode.
Exposed to some crosswinds, echelons formed with 97km to go, with a group getting detached with the likes of Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) and Mark Cavendish caught out and losing 50 seconds in a second group on the road.
As they entered more sheltered sections, the groups came back together and with 92km to go and Offredo was quickly caught with 90km remaining.
That left the bunch open for another breakaway, and it was another Frenchman who tried his luck alone, with Lauren Pichon (Fortuneo-Samsic) hitting out with 84km to go.
He gained a maximum gap of just over two minutes, but as he toiled alone in the wind it never looked hopeful for him.
In the last 40km Pichon had just 25 seconds, eventually being dragged back as the pace increased with lead out trains beginning to form at the front of the bunch.
He was finally brought back with 38km to go, with no-one thinking about attacking ahead of a certain sprint finish.
The next bit of light action came at the bonus time point at 30km to go, where race leader Greg Van Avermaet was able to take the maximum three seconds thanks to a lead out from his BMC team-mates, with no-one close to him in the GC picking up any time.
Things still remained sedate even as the peloton reached the final 10km, but it began to kick into life with the sprint trains of Cofidis, Dimension Data, Quick-Step, Lotto-Soudal and Bora-Hansgrohe fighting for position.
In the end, despite some of the strongest sprinters being placed perfectly for the final gallop to the line, it was Dylan Groenewegen who came through with a well timed turn of speed to claim his first victory of this race.
The Tour de France continues with another likely sprint finish on stage eight, with a flat 181km route from Dreux to Amiens Métropole.
Tour de France 2018, stage seven: Fougères – Chartres (231km)
1 Dylan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, in 5-43-42
2 Fernando Gaviria (Col) Quick-Step Floors
3 Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe
4 Arnaud Démare (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
5 Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, Solutions Credits
6 John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
7 Daryl Impey (RSA) Mitchelton-Scott
8 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
9 Andrea Pasqualon (Ita) Wanty-Groupe Gobert
10 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Dimension Data, all same time
General classification after stage seven
1 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team, 28-19-25
2 Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky, at 6 secs
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing, at 8 secs
4 Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Quick-Step Floors, at 9 secs
5 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 15 secs
6 Bob Jungels (Lux) Quick-Step Floors, at 21 secs
7 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 48 secs
8 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, at 54 secs
9 Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 55 secs
10 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana, at 56 secs