Groenewegen follows up on last year’s Champs-Élysées victory
12 months ago Dylan Groenewegen took his first Tour de France stage win on the sprinters’ biggest stage on the cobblestones of the Champs-Élysées, and has now followed that up just 85km to the south-west with an excellent stage win in Chartres.
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The Dutchman has endured a disappointing first week, finishing in the top 10 on stages one and four, but never quite being able to challenge Fernando Gaviria in the final 100m.
However this time Groenewegen had more than enough to dispense with his Colombian rival, launching his final acceleration just a second earlier than Gaviria and comfortably held him off to the line.
Groenewegen has now one at least one stage in every stage race that he’s competed in this year, and by the margin of victory we saw today this shouldn’t be the last time he’s on top of the podium at the 2018 Tour.
Gaviria shows he’s mortal
Having won both of the bunch sprints that he’d contested so far in the race on stages one and four, it had looked as if Fernando Gaviria was set for complete domination of the flat stages of this year’s race.
On the run in to the finish in Chartres there didn’t seem to be too much different about Gaviria’s approach, being shepherded around the front of the bunch by lead-out man Maximiliano Richeze.
But in the final 300m the Colombian seemed to make a few little mistakes, appearing to be a little slow to launch his sprint as Richeze pulled off the front.
That was all Groenewegen needed to pull alongside and in front of Gavira, and Quick-Step’s star man just didn’t have enough in the legs to come past for his second stage win.
Cavendish gets closer, but lack of form still shows
At the fourth attempt, Mark Cavendish has his first top 10 finish at the 2018 Tour de France. But although he’s heading in the right direction there is still a long way to go for the Manxman.
Having made an uncharacteristic mistake to get blocked in on stage four, Cavendish got himself in an ideal position today; the sort of position from which he could have won with his eyes closed a few years ago.
However the lack of form that Cavendish himself has admitted in interval as he opened his sprint only to see Gaviria and Groenewegen accelerating away and Arnaud Démare and Christophe Laporte come around him.
Cavendish held up the white flag and sat up with 100m to go to roll in 10th, but seemed in good spirits after the stage and is at least heading in the right direction.
Bizarre day with four different breakaways
While the break has just rolled off the front on every other day in the last week, stage seven saw a bizarre chain of events that was intriguing to watch.
First Thomas Degand (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) sprinted out of the bunch, before getting 200m off the front and easing up to let the peloton catch him as he didn’t fancy 230km on his own.
Then after ten minutes off rolling along with no one attack, Degard accelerated again, this time opening a gap of around a minute before once again realising that he still didn’t want a long day alone.
However as soon as Degard was caught there was a flurry of action with a strong break including Yves Lampaert, Oliver Naesen, Julien Vermote, Simon Gerrans, and Lukas Pöstlberger prompting a hard chase for LottoNL-Jumbo behind.
Once that was caught there was another few kilometres of tootling along before another Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider – Yoann Offredo – went clear for a solo break for a few kilometres, and after he was pulled back Laurent Pichon (Fortuneo-Samsic) also went off alone, managing to last quite a bit longer than either of the Wanty riders.
Van Avermaet fancies long spell in yellow
After Geraint Thomas trimmed his lead to a single second on yesterday’s stage, Greg Van Avermaet signalled that he wasn’t going to give up the yellow jersey lightly at today’s bonus sprint.
The Belgian rider duly jumped out of the bunch to claim the three bonus seconds on offer, extending his lead back out to four seconds as his team-mates swept up the remaining bonuses on offer.
With such small margins at the top of the general classification and the possibility that he will be called upon to look after Richie Porte on the cobbles, Van Avermaet will still face a challenge to be in yellow come the rest day, but is doing everything to give himself the best possible chance.