Peter Sagan shows his class yet again
Having already won one bunch sprint and finished second in another two, Peter Sagan‘s sheer class was in evidence again today as he got the better of a bunch of Classics specialists.
Looking strong there, Sagan then seemed a little slow to react as Philippe Gilbert opened up early, but then jumped onto Greg Van Avermaet‘s wheel as the yellow jersey moved to the front with 500m to go.
However having missed out to Sonny Colbrelli on a stage of the Tour de Suisse, Sagan must have had a feeling of déjà-vu as the Italian sprinted alongside before the world champion opened his legs to pull clear for his second win of the race.
Team Sky take control
The punchy, technical, uphill finish of the stage to Quimper was exactly the sort of finish that could produce little time gaps here and there, which is why Team Sky were so active through the final five kilometres.
Gianni Moscon combined with Michal Kwiatkowski to control the descent into town with five kilometres to go, before the Polish national champion continued to set the pace as the road kicked upwards after the flamme rouge.
That meant that both Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas were in an ideal position, and although the punchy Ardennes specialists were able to open up a few gaps as the road kicked up again with 600m to go, these closed on the flat finishing straight.
While Froome, Thomas, and Bernal finished behind the likes of Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin, this finish will give them confidence and should prove a dress rehearsal for the Mûr de Bretagne on Thursday.
Quick-Step poised for yellow jersey challenge
However after today’s stage they stand a serious chance of putting the yellow jersey of Greg Van Avermaet under pressure on tomorrow’s stage to Mûr de Bretagne.
Julian Alaphilippe jumped out of the bunch with 12km to go to grab three seconds at the bonus sprint, before Gilbert held on for third place to pick up four bonus seconds.
So although Greg Van Avermaet actually extended his lead at the top of the GC over team-mate Tejay van Garderen to two second as he finished second at the bonus sprint, both Gilbert and Alaphilippe are within striking distance for a stage finish that will suit them in 24 hours time.
Tough day for the sprinters
This stage may have looked like an easy day out compared to the big mountain days to come, but for some of the sprinters this was anything but a straightforward day.
Mark Cavendish was the first to find himself in trouble on the very first categorised climb of the day with nearly 100km remaining, but was thankfully able to get back on.
However Cavendish was dropped again on the approach to the Côte de la Roche du Feu, finding himself isolated with Dimension Data sending Jay Robert Thompson back to help their start sprinter
Marcel Kittel and Dylan Groenwegen were also dropped as a fierce pace continued in the peloton, but it was Cavendish who found himself even having to chase to catch the rest of the sprinters, eventually making the junction to roll in more than 20 minutes down and live to fight another day.
Sylvain Chavanel’s one-man show continues
After spending 130km alone at the front of the race on stage two, Sylvain Chavanel again decided to go it alone midway through today’s stage.
Having worked hard to get into the break alongside Direct Energie team-mate Lilian Calmejane, Chavanel attacked on the fourth category climb of the Côte de Kaliforn with nearly 100km still remaining.
Chavanel was caught by his breakaway companions with 62km to go before being dropped on a climb a little later on, but he still did a good job of giving Calmejane a good excuse to sit on earlier in the race.
With retirement probably beckoning for the 39-year-old at the end of the season, this looks set to be Chavanel’s final Tour de France at the end of a career that has seen him win three stages and take the overall combativity award on two occasions, and the Frenchman is really trying to go out on a high.