Matteo Trentin took his second stage win in successive Tours by mere millimetres ahead of Peter Sagan on stage seven into Nancy.
Cannondale's pre-stage favourite needed just one more bike length to overhaul the Italian, who won in Lyon last year, however the elusive victory again eluded the Slovakian champion as he ended up with his seventh consecutive top five in this year's race.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) displayed his customary guile to keep his position near the front of the bunch and retain his yellow jersey ahead of the Tour's trip into the Vosges tomorrow.
Sagan meanwhile will perhaps rue his attack over the summit of the second of two short, fast climbs inside the final 20km of the stage that saw the peloton's pure sprinters distanced from a select group of puncheurs and overall favourites.
Although he managed to escape with Greg Van Avermaet from the 5km mark until the flamme rouge, the ultimately unsuccessful effort took the edge off Sagan's sprint and again saw him blow a chance for the stage win.
Nor is it quite the result his Cannondale team were looking for after spending most of the second longest stage of this year's race controlling the race at the front of the peloton.
A number of crashes on the fast and furious conclusion to the stage saw Tejay Van Garderen (BMC Racing) lose 63 seconds and fellow American hopeful Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) suffer a hard fall inside the final 200m as he and Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) crossed lines.
While the opening week of this year's Tour has drawn plaudits for its unorthodox stages in Yorkshire and on the cobbles, stages six and seven have been the classic, edgy flat dashes past the featureless fields of north-east France.
With eight kilometres raced, Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Martin Elmiger (IAM), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp-Endura) and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne-Séché) took off.
However their escape was seldom allowed more than four minutes as the peloton was marshalled by Cannondale and Astana, who finally reeled in their prey as the two spicy fourth category climbs appeared on the horizon.
The stage wasn't without its casualties; Dutchmen Stef Clement (Belkin) and hitherto youngest rider in the Tour, Danny Van Poppel (Trek Factory) both abandoned following early crashes.
BMC's key mountain goat Darwin Atapuma also withdrew after coming down behind Van Garderen: a key loss for the Tour hopeful as the race heads to the hills.
2014 Tour de France, stage seven: Epernay to Nancy, 234.5km
1. Matteo Trentin (Ita) Omega Pharma-Quickstep in 5-18-39
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale
3. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol
4. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Giant-Shimano
5. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
6. Daniel Oss (Ita) BMC Racing
7. Cyril Gautier (Fra) Europcar
8. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) IAM Cycling
9. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Belkin
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing all at s.t.
Overall classification after stage seven
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana in 29-57-04
2. Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Astana at 2 secs
3. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale at 44 secs
4. Michael Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quickstep at 50 secs
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Belisol at 1-45
6. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky at 1-54
7. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 2-05
8. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar at 2-11
9. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale
10. Rui Costa (Por) Lampre-Merida at s.t.
Thank you for reading 10 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
Richard Abraham is an award-winning writer, based in New Zealand. He has reported from major sporting events including the Tour de France and Olympic Games, and is also a part-time travel guide who has delivered luxury cycle tours and events across Europe. In 2019 he was awarded Writer of the Year at the PPA Awards.
Bikes of the Atlas Mountain Race 2023: from comfort gravellers to speed weapons, here’s what caught our eye
Covering 1,300km / 800mi of Morocco’s gravel roads and mountain passes, the Atlas Mountain Race demands a tech-heavy approach for its 3+ days of bikepacking racing
By Stefan Abram • Published
British champion Cameron Mason hoping for rain at Cyclo-cross World Championships
British national champion says patience will be the key in what’s expected to be a fast race in Hoogerheide, the Netherlands
By Tom Thewlis • Published
Tour de Yorkshire to be replaced with new look cycling event in 2024
Tour de Yorkshire not due to return to north of England, although initial plans announced for new cycling event in area
By Tom Thewlis • Last updated
Bartosz Huzarski's legs cause social media stir
By Jack Elton-Walters • Published
Team Sky will regroup after disappointing Tour de France
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford says Sky will come back stronger after a torrid Tour de France that saw the squad leave empty-handed
By Nigel Wynn • Published
Video: Kevin Reza picks up fan's camera during Tour de France and makes film
Europcar rider Kevin Reza scoops up a spectator's dropped camera, films himself riding along - and the camera is later returned to fan
By Nigel Wynn • Published
Geraint Thomas: I'm having a decent night
Welshman Geraint Thomas finishes Tour de France before racing to Commonwealth Games
By Sophie Smith • Published
Vincenzo Nibali wins 2014 Tour de France; Marcel Kittel takes final stage
Marcel Kittel takes his fourth stage win as Vincenzo Nibali seals overall victory in Paris
By Sophie Hurcom • Published
Vincenzo Nibali secures 2014 Tour de France title after time trial
With just the final stage to Paris left, Vincenzo Nibali has all but sewn up the 2014 Tour de France win
By Gregor Brown • Published
Tony Martin takes Tour de France time trial
Vincenzo Nibali extends overall lead further as Jean-Christophe Peraud moves up to second on GC
By Stephen Puddicombe • Published