Cavendish prevailed in a hectic sprint, sitting in the slipstream of André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and then out-pacing all of his rivals to take the victory ahead of Greipel, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in third. It's Cavendish's 26th Tour de France stage victory, and the third for Etixx-QuickStep in the 2015 Tour.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) has now inherited the overall race lead after Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) was forced to abandon the race after crashing in the finale of stage six and breaking his collarbone.
Although technically race leader at the start of the day, Froome did not to wear the yellow jersey during the stage saying "In my opinion that's not the way to inherit the yellow jersey - through someone else's misfortune".
Froome now leads Sagan by 11 seconds overall, with Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in third at 13 seconds.
The day kicked off with an escape group forming in the opening kilometres, consisting of Kristjian Durasek (Lampre-Merida), Luis Angel Maté (Cofidis), Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché Environnement), Brice Feillu (Bretagne-Séché Environnement) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka).
The quintet spent almost the entire 190km of the stage out front, although they never increased their lead over the peloton by more than four minutes.
Teklehaimanot ensured that he snagged the single King of the Mountains point on the Côte de Canapville situated just 13 kilometres from the stage start to increase his lead in the KoM classification.
The break was caught with 11km to go, setting up a bunch sprint. Initially, the overall contenders teams took the helm to keep their riders out of trouble. Then the sprinters' team moved to the fore in the final few kilometres - although several lead-out trains became fragmented after a tight roundabout.
Cavendish played a clever tactical game, jumping first onto the rear wheel of Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and then Greipel, before squeezing past Sagan to take the victory.
The fight for the green jersey continued during the stage, with the top sprinters battling it out at the day's intermediate sprint checkpoint as well as the finish. Greipel's second place behind Cavendish meant that he retains the lead in the points classification with 199 points. Sagan is second with 187 points, and Cavendish moves up to third with 151 points.
On Saturday, the riders tackle stage eight in Brittany, starting in Rennes and finishing on a sharp climb in Mur-de-Bretagne. The stage is likely to be hotly contested by classics men and GC contenders alike, the latter mindful of not losing time to rivals as much as gaining it.
>>> Tour de France 2015 stage eight full preview
Tour de France 2015, stage seven: Livarot to Fougères, 190.5km
1. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Etixx-QuickStep in 4-27-25
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
5. Aexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
6. Arnaud Demare (Fra) FDJ
7. Tyler Farrar (USA) MTN-Qhubeka
8. Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg (RSA) MTN-Qhubeka
9. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Sam Bennett (Irl) Bora-Argon 18 all same time
24. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at same time
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 11 secs
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 13 secs
4. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 26 secs
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 28 secs
6. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx-QuickStep at 34 secs
7. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 36 secs
8. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep at 52 secs
9. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 1-03
10. Warren Barguil (Fra) Giant-Alpecin at 1-07
12. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana at 1-38
16. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 1-56
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