Peter Sagan took his first win of the 2013 Tour de France after a brilliantly executed stage by his Cannondale team.
Following three second-place finishes earlier this week, the Slovak may have been growing frustrated at the number of near misses, but today he managed to outsprint John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Daniele Bennati (Saxo-Tinkoff) to go one better.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) and Andre Griepel (Lotto-Belisol) and a host of other sprinters did not contest the finish having been dropped on the category two Col de la Croix Mounis climb. Despite the efforts of their teams, who dropped back in numbers and worked together in an attempt to bring their leaders back into contention, Cannondale's pace in the peloton proved too much.
For much of the second half of the stage, an exciting and exhausting pursuit took place between these two groups. After early inroads, the gap became stable at two minutes, and despite the efforts of Omega, Lotto and Argos, no further inroads were made. Eventually, around 25 kilometres from the finish, they sat up and conceded the stage.
It was the perfect day for Sagan and Cannondale, who also took the maximum 20 points at the intermediate sprint, with all of his green jersey rivals still floundering in the group behind. He now possesses a huge lead of 94 ahead of Andre Greipel.
The speedy pursuit meant that the first break of the day, featuring Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) and Blel Kadri (Ag2r), were given little leeway, and were caught around the half way point. Kadri's efforts weren't entirely in vain however; the seven points he took in today's climbs were enough to see him overtake Pierre Rolland in the King of the Mountains competition.
After the intermediate sprint, another group of three riders formed: Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Juanjo Oroz (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), the latter apparently hungry for more success following his stage win and stint in yellow earlier his week. They bravely retained a small gap ahead of the peloton, until being reeled in by Cannondale with just three kilometres to go.
Unfortunatly there were two more retirees today. Christian Vande Velde's (Garmin-Sharp) seemingly never-ending run of bad luck continued as he pulled out with an injury, and Janez Brajkovic (Astana) was also unable to recover sufficiently from his injuries sustained yesterday.
Daryl Impey (Orica-GreenEdge) remained safely in the peloton and thus retained his yellow jersey. However, he is sure to lose it on tomorrow's summit finish in the Pyrenees.
Tour de France 2013, stage seven: Montpellier to Albi, 205.5km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale in 4-54-12
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Saxo-Tinkoff
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky
6. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Radioshack Leopard
8. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ
9. Alessandro Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida
10. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step all st
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge in 27-12-29
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky at 3 sec
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge at 0-05
4. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEdge at same time
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at 0-06
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-QuickStep at st
7. Chris Froome (GBr) Sky at 0-08
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at st
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff at 0-14
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff at st
Peter Sagan pays tribute to the work of his team on the finish line
Tour de France 2013: Stage reports
Stage six: Greipel wins as Impey moves into lead
Stage five: Cavendish wins; Gerrans keeps lead
Stage four: Orica win Tour's team time trial to put Gerrans in yellow
Stage three: Gerrans outpaces Sagan to take win
Stage two: Millar denied yellow as Bakelants takes spoils
Stage one: Kittel wins chaotic opening stage
Tour de France 2013: Podcasts
Tour de France 2013: Comment, analysis, blogs
Tour de France 2013: Photo galleries
Stage six by Andy Jones
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Andy Jones
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Andy Jones
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Team presentation by Graham Watson
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