Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) took his second victory of the Tour de France 2020 in a reduced bunch sprint after a fast and frantic stage seven.
The Belgian accelerated on the right-hand side of the road in the final 100m from a group of 41 riders that had split away with about 35km to go. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT) was the first rider to launch his sprint quite early, with Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) and Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels – Vital Concept) coming through the centre of the road. Van Aert was able to ride in the slipstream of Boasson-Hagen before powering past them all to take his second victory of the race after winning on stage five.
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) was also well positioned in the sprint but was forced to pull up after he and Stuyven bumped against each other.
Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) remains in the overall lead after finishing safely in the front group with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) holding on to second place. Best young rider Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) and Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) were among the GC contenders to lose out in the group splits, finishing 1-21 behind along with Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers).
How it happened
Stage seven of the Tour de France would take riders over 168km from Millau to Lavaur, close to the Pyrenees. On paper, the stage looked to offer the sprinters another chance of victory ahead of the back to back mountain stages at the weekend, but with three categorised climbs along the way, things may not be as straightforward as they first appeared.
That proved to be true from the very off, with Peter Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe setting a frantic pace from the gun and over the early category three climb to split the race to pieces.
With all of the GC contenders tucked away in the front group led by Bora, it was Sagan’s sprint rivals who were cut adrift. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) and Giacomo Nizzolo (NTT Cycling) were all dropped into a group which slipped to over two minutes behind with 135km to go. The green jersey wearer Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) meanwhile was stuck in a group just behind the leaders. Deceuninck-Quick-Step were forced to work hard to try and counter the efforts of Bora in the leading group, and despite coming close to pulling it back, the gap began to extend out towards a minute.
By the intermediate sprint with 110km to go, the Ewan group was almost five minutes back and Bennett over two minutes away from the front of the race. Despite all of Bora’s work, Sagan was only able to second place on the intermediate sprint behind Matteo Trentin (CCC Team), though it was enough to take the virtual green jersey.
As the front of the race hit the category three Col de Peyronnenc, things began to calm down with gaps between the groups well established, with Bora continuing to set the pace up the shallow 14.5km climb.
The chase behind came to an end in earnest with around 95km to go, with the Bennett group over four minutes back and the last group seven minutes down. There was no recovery for the Bennett or Ewan groups, finishing 14-32 and 15-54 behind respectively.
Over the top of the Col de Peyronnenc, Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) went clear on his own, gaining around 20 seconds over the lead group with over 90km remaining.
The Belgian ploughed on despite the inevitability of his being caught by the chasers, but with 60km to go he was up to around 50 seconds advantage.
The solo mission by De Gendt lasted until just under 36km to go when the route turned west towards Lavaur and into crosswinds.
As they turned into the crosswind section with 35km to, Ineos put the pressure on to stretch out the bunch, causing echelons almost immediately.
Tadej Pogačar, Richie Porte and Mikel Landa were the key riders to miss the split to the front group of over 40 riders and had to fight on in the second group, which quickly dropped back to 50 seconds behind.
The yellow jersey Adam Yates made it into front group along with the other GC contenders, though Yates had no team-mates with him
That gap to the second group sustained through to under 20km to go, with Richard Carapaz the next rider to drop out of the leading group. The Ecuadorian suffered an untimely mechanical with 17km to go and was forced to ride solo to try and make it back to the front group. Ineos eventually dropped his team-mate Jonathan Castroviejo back to try and help him bridge the 30-second gap between him and the leaders. The pursuit never looked surmountable however and the pair were forced to drop back to the Pogačar group which was now at 1-20.
The lead group then powered on towards the finish, with the remaining fast-men gearing up for a sprint to the line.
It was then NTT who tried to set things up for Edvald Boasson Hagen in the final 500m, with Wout van Aert and Peter Sagan just behind him. While Boasson Hagen was able to push Van Aert to the line and take second on the stage, Sagan never really seemed in the contest, eventually finishing 13th. The four-time world champion did enough at the intermediate sprint though to take over the green jersey from Sam Bennett.
Van Aert now sits third in that competition, but more importantly, sealed Jumbo-Visma’s third stage win of the Tour with their GC contender Primoz Roglič still safely in second place overall at three seconds behind Adam Yates.
The Tour de France continues with stage eight on Saturday and the first of two stages in the Pyrenees. The riders will take on a 141km route from Cazères to Loudenvielle that includes two category one climbs, the Col de Menté and the Col de Peyresourde, and one HC climb, the Port de Balès.
Tour de France 2020, stage seven: Millau to Lavaur (168km)
1. Wout van Aert (Bel) Jumbo-Visma, in 3-32-03
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) NTT Pro Cycling
3. Bryan Coquard (Fra) B&B Hotels – Vital Concept
4. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis
5. Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek-Segafredo
6. Clément Venturini (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
7. Hugo Hofstetter (Fra) Israel Start-Up Nation
8. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott
10. Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar, all at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Adam Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, in 30-36-00
2. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 3 seconds
3. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 9 seconds
4. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 13s
5. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma
6. Nairo Quintana (Col) Arkéa-Samsic
7. Romain Bardet (Fra) Ag2r La Mondiale
8. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Astana
9. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
10. Rigoberto Úran (Col) EF Pro Cycling, all at same time
16. Tadej Pogačar (Slo) UAE Team Emirates, at 1-28
19. Mikel Landa (Esp) Bahrain-McLaren, at 1-34
20. Richie Porte (Aus) Trek-Segafredo, at same time
21. Richard Carapaz (Ecu) Ineos Grenadiers, at 2-02