The two riders appeared to cross the line simultaneously in Nuits-Saint-Georges at the end of stage seven on Friday. Neither rider celebrated as they finished – a sure sign of how close it was. However, after the jury studied the finish-line photo they awarded the win to Kittel. That makes 12 career Tour stage victories for Kittel, equalling Erik Zabel’s tally to become joint most successful German sprinter at the Tour.
Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) finished third, with British sprinter Dan McLay (Fortuneo) in 10th.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) finished in the peloton alongside all of the general classification contenders to retain the overall lead. Team Sky team-mate and fellow British rider Geraint Thomas stays in second spot at 12 seconds, with Italian Fabio Aru (Astana) in third at 14 seconds.
The way the stage played out was virtually a carbon copy of the previous day’s stage, with a four-man escape group going off early but not being given much leeway by the peloton.
The quartet comprised Yohann Gène (Direct Energie), Dylan van Baarle (Cannondale-Drapac), Maxime Bouet (Fortuneo-Oscaro) and Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates), who pushed out the gap to three and a half minutes at the mid-way point.
Crosswinds had been rumoured on the open countryside through the region’s vineyards, but ultimately they did not really materialise and certainly didn’t play a part in the stage.
Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo) was perhaps the most unfortunate rider of the day, crashing twice in minor incidents but quickly got back up and running each time.
As the race heading into the final 30km it was the GC contenders’ teams rather than sprinters’ squads that lined up at the front of the bunch, keeping their prize fighters safe in the event of crashes. At 15km to go, the break still had 50 seconds over the chasing pack.
That changed with 10km to go, as the sprinters’ trains assembled at the head of the peloton, with the pace significantly upped. Gene was the first of the break to get caught with 7km to go, and Mori, van Baarle and Bouet were caught with 6km remaining.
The speed into the finish was blistering, as the bunch hit over 60kmh into Nuits-Saint-Georges. There was some jostling for position, even at 2km out, with Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) briefly touching shoulders.
Kittel’s Quick-Step Floors team led the way before Dimension Data took over for Boasson Hagen. Kittel tucked in behind Boasson Hagen, but as the Norwegian launched his full-on effort Kittel was slightly distanced. Somehow, the German made up the ground in the final 75 metres to nick the win – he later admitted that he miscalculated the distance to the finish from the final corner.
After Frenchman Démare (FDJ) finished outside the top 10, Kittel now wears the green jersey of points classification leader.
The 2017 Tour de France now moves into the Jura mountains, with a hilly stage on Saturday – perhaps favouring a break – and a high mountain stage on Sunday. The race concludes in Paris on Sunday, July 23.
Tour de France 2017, stage seven: Troyes to Nuits-Saint-Georges, 213.5km
1. Marcel Kittel (Ger) Quick-Step Floors, in 5-03-18
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Dimension Data
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) Team Sunweb
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha-Alpecin
5. John Degenkolb (Ger) Trek-Segafredo
6. Dyan Groenewegen (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo
7. Rüdiger Selig (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe
8. Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) Cofidis
9. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto-Soudal
10. Daniel McLay (GBr) Fortuneo-Oscaro, all same time
48. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky, at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky
2. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 12s
3. Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana at 14s
4. Dan Martin (Irl) Quick-Step Floors at 25s
5. Richie Porte (Aus) BMC Racing at 39s
6. Simon Yates (GBr) Orica-Scott at 43s
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale at 47s
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Trek-Segafredo at 52s
9. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 54s
10. Rafal Majka (Pol) Bora-Hansgrohe at 1-01