Montpellier to Albi 205.5km


This year's Stage Seven of the Tour de France was seen as a last chance for the pure sprinters.  The 205.5km road from Montpellier to Albi, while getting hillier, still isn't mountainous, and tomorrow the race goes into the Pyrenees. This was an important day for fast men like Omega Pharma-Quicksteps' Mark Cavendish and Lotto-Belisol's Andre Greipel. They're down on points to Cannondale Pro Cycling's Peter Sagan, and they'll need every point they can snare now to minimize the damage Sagan can do to them on the tougher days ahead.

It was also an important stage for Sagan. While he can climb better than most sprinters, he's been second three times thusfar and Albi represents a chance to increase his lead in his defense of the Maillot Vert, and another shot at a sprint win.

The day started with a breakaway. RadioShack's Jens Voigt and AG2R's Blel Kadri rode off early. While they were given almost six minutes of freedom, Cannondale wasn't going to let them have an easy ride.

When the peloton reached the toughest climb of the day, the category 2 Col de la Croix de Mounis, Cannondale went to the front to set a hard tempo. The point was to dislodge as many sprinters as possible as well as erase the lead of Voigt and Kadri before the intermediate sprint.

On the Mounis, Cannondale dropped much of the peloton, including previous sprint stage winners Cavendish, Greipel, and Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano. After the climb, the mopped up Kadri, then Voigt, and powered on. Behind by over two minutes, the Omega Pharma, Lotto, and Argos-Shimano teams got together to chase back the lead pack. Even with the three teams combining forces, they couldn't gain any ground on the Cannondale-led group. At intermediate sprint, where Sagan easily took maximum points, 20, on the line, none of the Green Jersey rivals were anywhere near scoring points.

With the sprint taken care of, early Maillot Jaune holder Jan Bakelants of RadioShack rode away, an joined by Europcar's Cyril Gauthier and Juan Oroz of Euskatel. 62km remained. Bakelants needed 34 seconds to reclaim yellow, and after several kilometers of furious riding, he had enough of a gap to reclaim yellow.

Orica-Greenedge, which was expected to chase to retain their man Daryl Impey's Yellow Jersey, sat back, only giving one rider to Cannondale's cause. Cannondale, with the sprinter teams still chasing, didn't look back. They powered on. The chase threw in the towel with 40km left in the stage and sat up. With four kilometers to go, the escape was caught. And Cannondale continued their pace-making.

Into the final kilometer, a tiring Cannondale team was passed by the Argos-Shimano train, which was working for John Degenkolb. But Sagan kept his cool, and he had Fabio Sabatini remaining. Sabatini guided him into position. Into the final 250 meters, Degenkolb started his sprint while Sagan moved onto his wheel. And then Sagan pounced, riding away from Degenkolb and everybody and still had a bike length after taking his arms off the bars to start his victory celebration.

With the stage victory, and the 45 points that goes along with it, Sagan increased his total in the Points competition to 224, 94 points ahead of Greipel and 105 over Cavendish. He also collected the prize for the best young rider of the day.

An excited Sagan skidded to a halt after the finish line and waited to embrace his teammates after they crossed the line. "Very good. I'm very happy. Thanks to my team, because without them, I couldn't win. This victory is for all of them. I'm happy because after frustrating days, where I didn't feel very good. But I trusted in myself and am getting better and better. We have another 14 days, and I hope when I get to Paris, I'll be in the Green Jersey."

Tomorrow, the Tour enters the Pyrenees and the race changes. The overall contenders will have to show themselves as the race will reshape itself. The 195km(122mi) Eighth Stage from Castres to Ax 3 Domaines is almost completely flat through the intermediate sprint at Quillan 119km (74mi) into the day. Once through that line, the race tilts upwards, first gently, and then steeply, as the riders tackle the 15.3km (9.6mi) Col de Pailheres, a hors category climb averaging an 8% grade, followed by a high speed descent that leads into the final climb, the 7.8km (4.8mi) first category Ax 3 Domaines climb, which averages a slightly steeper 8.2%. Expect Cannondale Pro Cycling to work for the intermediate sprint to get points for Peter Sagan and then switch to survival mode. If he's feeling good, Moreno Moser will try to mix it up with the leaders on the climbs.

Tour de France 2013
Stage 7: Montpellier to Albi 205.5km


Stage Results

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling        in     4:54:12            
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Team Argos-Shimano            at      same time       
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Team Saxo-Tinkoff                           same time
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step      same time
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling                    same time


Stage Results Cannondale Pro Cycling

43. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                            same time
54. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        same time
98. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                          0:00:30           
99. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                               0:00:33                         
102. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       0:01:35             
103. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                        same time       
136.Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                      0:1453


General Classification

1. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEdge                                27:12:29           
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling                    0:00:03             
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge                             0:00:05             
4. Michael Albasini (Swi) Orica-GreenEdge                           same time
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step      0:00:06           

General Classification Cannondale Pro Cycling

31. Peter Sagan (Svk)                                                              0:00:34           
57. Alessandro De Marchi (Ita)                                               0:02:35           
65. Kristijan Koren (Slo)                                                        0:06:17           
90. Moreno Moser (Ita)                                                          0:16:42
100. Alan Marangoni (Ita)                                                       0:20:24           
103. Maciej Bodnar (Pol)                                                        0:22:49           
111. Fabio Sabatini (Ita)                                                          0:26:39           
147. Brian Vandborg (Den)                                                    0:42:43           


Points Competition

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale Pro Cycling                 224  pts
2. André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol                                       130       
3. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Omega Pharma-Quick Step           119       
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha                                      111       
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling                    088     

"I am happy with the perforamnce of the team today.  They rode at the front for over 100km and I had to get the win for them today."—translation of his italian by Paul Sherwen

"Very good.  I'm very happy.  Thanks to my team, because without them, I couldn't win.  This victory is for all of them.  I'm happy because after frustrating days, where I didn't feel very good.  But I trusted in myself and was getting better and better. We have another 14 days, and I hope when I get to Paris, I'll be in the Green Jersey."

First win of the Tour this year.  But today, this victory is a thank you for my team.  I hope it's not my last of the Tour.  Thanks to them, they did incredible work.  We dropped every sprinter and it was much easier at the finish.  I'm happy for this victory.  I trust every day after a crash, I'll be going better.  We have another 14 days, and I hope when I get to Paris, I'll be in the Green Jersey."