Seventh heaven: a furious stage kicks off the Tour de France


LAVAUR, France (AP) – The furthest day of racing yet at the Tour de France produced several winners on Friday.

Wout Van Aert won the 7th stage. It was the second victory for the resurgent Belgian rider in this year’s race.

Defending champion Egan Bernal and the other main contenders for the overall title dealt a heavy blow to the main rivals by outdistancing them in the cross winds on the fast approach to the finish.

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan reclaimed the green jersey awarded to riders with the most points in the sprints, after his team wreaked havoc on the road by driving furiously from the start.

And the Briton Adam Yates negotiated the many traps of the day to keep the yellow jersey of the leader of the race.

“A really tough day,” Yates said. “We never really rested.”

After two relatively calm stages, the 168 kilometer (104 mile) road through southwest France from Millau to Lavaur had also looked ho-hum on paper. But he delivered an electric shock ahead of a weekend of climbing in the Pyrenees, with thrills from start to finish.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe teammates rode like furies from the start, setting a pace so painful that Bora rider Emanuel Buchmann has established a new top speed so far in this Tour: a whopping 96 kilometers ( 60 miles) per hour. Many of Sagan’s sprint rivals just couldn’t keep up.

Among them were Alexander Kristoff, the winner of Stage 1, and Caleb Ewan, who won Stage 3. Sam Bennett, who started the stage with the green jersey Sagan covets. Sagan has already won the points-for-sprints competition a record seven times in previous Tours and is aiming for an eighth victory when the Tour concludes on September 20 in Paris.

In a mid-stage sprint and again later at the finish, Sagan collected enough points to collect Bennett’s jersey. Sagan could have collected more if his chain hadn’t caught as he twisted to the line. He only finished 13th, a meager reward for the tireless work of his teammates in more than three hours of racing.

“They did an amazing job,” Sagan said. “I had no luck in the sprint because my chain got a bit stuck.”

Van Aert made his own chance, unstoppable in the last dash. He also won stage 5.

“I’m really proud of this one,” he said. “Straight out of the gun, everything was out. ”


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