Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) asserted his dominance on stage seven of the Tour de France, winning the summit finish up La Super Planche des Belles Filles by beating Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) in the final sprint.
Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), part of the day's breakaway, attacked alone up in the final 5km, maintaining a minute gap between himself and the chasing group behind.
Despite his best efforts, though, the German couldn't quite hang onto the stage victory, as Pogačar and Vingegaard sprinted past him in the final hundred metres.
Initially it seemed as if Vingegaard had the edge, but Pogačar fought back to cross the line first, earning crucial bonus seconds in the process.
Consequently, the reigning champion extends his GC lead to 35 seconds over second-placed Vingegaard, picking up his second stage victory of this year's Tour de France in the process.
HOW IT HAPPENED
Stage seven featured the first major climbing of the 2022 Tour de France, and the inclusion of La Super Planches des Belles Filles signified the first summit finish of this year's race, too.
A 176km stage, the day started in Tomblaine, with La Planches des Belles Filles lasting for 7km at an 8.7% gradient. Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) entered the stage looking to bury the hatchet from that infamous 2020 time trial on La Planche des Belles Filles where he surrended the overall win to Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), as well as overcome the deficit he currently has on GC.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) came into the day wearing the yellow jersey for the first time at this year's Tour, after winning stage six in commanding fashion. Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) relinquished control of the overall lead yesterday, so had to settle for wearing the green jersey instead.
UAE Team Emirates didn't start the stage in the best way, with multiple riders, including Pogačar, suffering mechanical issues. However, they did well in quashing any breakaway attempts when they managed to sort these issues out, riding hard at the front of the peloton.
Mikkel Honoré (Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl) was a lone rider attempting to create a breakaway, but riders seemed reluctant to join him out front. Bora-Hansgrohe were aggressive in trying to push the issue, though, with Lennard Kämna, Marco Haller and Maximilian Schachmann all increasing the tempo.
Simon Geschke (Cofidis) and Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) eventually established a gap of around 20 seconds nearly 50km into the race, but the Italian decided not to pursue this line of attack and dropped back to the peloton.
Finally, the break established itself after over 50km of riding, with 11 riders comprising the leaders. Magnus Cort (EF Education-EasyPost), eager to make the most of the mountains points on offer, tried bridging across, but he found himself in no-man's land and subsequently dropped back to the bunch
With 100km left in the stage, the breakaway's lead stood at 2-30. However, UAE Team Emirates wouldn't let it rise any higher ahead of the climbs later in the day, with the team eager to keep the yellow jersey in contention for a potential race win. The break's lead then reduced ahead of the first categorised climb of the day up Col de la Grosse Pierre, a 3.1km long ascent at 6.2%, with the time gap falling to 1-30.
At this point, the Bora-Hansgrohe duo of Kämna and Schachmann attempted to drop the others, with Luke Durbridge (BikeExchange-Jayco) managing to follow. Six riders were subsequently dropped at the front of the race as a result, with two others having fallen victim over the intervening kilometres.
Simon Geschke and Dylan Teuns (Bahrain-Victorious) were able to bridge back across after a period, though, creating a group of five out front. After initially being dropped from the break, Cyril Barthe (B&B Hotels) and Imanol Erviti (Movistar) also both managed to clamber back on.
With 50km to go, their lead over the peloton stood at three minutes. Over the next 20km, this only came down by 20 seconds. UAE Team Emirates continued to lead the peloton to ensure the pace didn't dwindle too much.
The time gap continued to gradually fall ahead of the summit finish, with the seven breakaway riders just two minutes ahead with 20km remaining. Other teams started to move to the front by this point, with Ineos Grenadiers, Jumbo-Visma and Groupama-FDJ all jostling for position with the final climb in mind.
At the foot of La Super Planche des Belles Filles, with 10km left, Erviti dropped out of the breakaway, with the breakaway's lead at 1-40. Filippo Ganna led the bunch up the hill, pulling his Ineos teammates along to reduce the deficit to the six riders leading.
The break soon became four, though, with Schachmann and Barthe unable to hang on as Kämna, Teuns, Durbridge and Geschke took the mantle on. Geschke attacked in the final 7km, dropping Durbridge. Kämna and Teuns just about managed to keep on the German's wheel, but, all the while the peloton continued to eat into the front riders' lead.
UAE Team Emirates led Pogačar up the climb, with his main GC rivals keeping themselves in contention. Teuns soon couldn't match the pace either, leaving just Kämna and Geschke the men to catch for the peloton - the gap 1-13 with 5km left. At this point Kämna kicked once again, leaving Geschke trailing behind him as he made an attempt for the stage win.
Despite the distance slowly closing, Kämna still had 50 seconds between himself and the main peloton with 3km until the finish line. This failed to reduce any further heading into the final 1.5km, but the harshest gradient was still to come, with a sharp incline of 20% left to traverse. Kämna continued to dig deep and push, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider 35 seconds ahead as he crossed the Flamme Rouge.
A change of terrain welcomed him here, with gravel instead of asphalt the surface he needed to ride on. Meanwhile, Pogačar attacked himself, but Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) followed with Roglič swiftly behind.
Kämna stamped on the pedals, desperate to reach the finish line first. Unfortunately for him, though Vingegaard and Pogačar caught him with 100m remaining. The pair both sprinted for the line, and it was Pogačar who triumphed, proving his superiority in the final metres of the stage.
Roglič also managed to overtake Kämna in the closing moments, causing Kämna to agonisingly miss out on a podium finish.
TOUR DE FRANCE 2022 STAGE SEVEN RESULTS
1. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, in 3-58-40
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at same time
3. Primož Roglič (Svn) Jumbo-Visma, at 12s
4. Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 14s
5. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at same time
6. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 19s
7. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar, at 21s
8. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at same time
9. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 29s
10. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 41s
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION AFTER STAGE SEVEN
1. Tadej Pogačar (Svn) UAE Team Emirates, in 24-43-14
2. Jonas Vingegaard (Den) Jumbo-Visma, at 35s
3. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-10
4. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-18
5. David Gaudu (Fra) Groupama-FDJ, at 1-31
6. Romain Bardet (Fra) Team DSM, at 1-32
7. Tom Pidcock (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-35
8. Neilson Powless (USA) EF Education-EasyPost, at 1-37
9. Enric Mas (Spa) Movistar, at 1-43
10. Daniel Felipe Martínez (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 1-55
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