A ‘trans­fer’ stage: Time to re­lax on long­est leg of Tour de France

The Niagara Falls Review - - Sports - AN­DREW DAMPF

CHARTRES, FRANCE — Peter Sa­gan thrust his arm and fist for­ward like Su­per­man.

Chris Froome calmly dropped back to his team car to get his seat ad­justed by a me­chanic.

Other rid­ers chat­ted as they ad­mired the rolling coun­try­side.

With nearly six hours in the sad­dle and hardly any ac­tion un­til the fi­nale, there was plenty of time to re­lax and fool around dur­ing the long­est stage of the Tour de France on Fri­day.

“Bor­ing stage,” said Sa­gan, the three-time reign­ing world cham­pion. “You’re happy it was a sunny day, no wind, with­out stress. But it was bor­ing.

“I talked to ev­ery­one,” Sa­gan said when asked how he passed the time af­ter fin­ish­ing third in the mass sprint which, with its up­hill fin­ish, suited him.

“I’m happy with that,” he said. “I had no legs to beat the first two guys.”

Dutch rider Dy­lan Groe­newe­gen won the stage ahead of Fer­nando Gaviria, who like Sa­gan has also won two stages in this year’s Tour.

Four-time cham­pion Froome and the other favourites fin­ished safely in the main pack on Stage 7, which — un­like ear­lier sprint­ing legs — was with­out se­ri­ous crashes.

Greg Van Aver­maet held on to the yel­low jer­sey he grabbed on Stage 3 and dou­bled his lead over Geraint Thomas to six sec­onds by win­ning an in­ter­me­di­ate bonus sprint.

Froome is 14th, 1:05 be­hind Van Aver­maet.

Gaviria and Sa­gan were mark­ing each other when Groe­newe­gen sur­prised both and surged ahead on the fi­nal straight.

It was the sec­ond vic­tory in the race for Groe­newe­gen, who also won a sprint in last year’s con“It clud­ing stage on the Champ­sÉlysées in Paris.

“The first days were not good enough, the legs were not good. To­day the legs were good and every­thing was OK,” said Groe­newe­gen, who rides for Team Lotto NL-Jumbo. “With 200 me­tres to go, I saw the gap and I was go­ing to the fin­ish line.”

Af­ter cross­ing the line, Groe­newe­gen placed his fin­ger to his lips in a ges­ture of si­lence.

“Peo­ple said I was not good enough af­ter the first sprints, but that’s not true,” he said.

The 231-kilo­me­tre (143.5-mile) trek from Fougeres, home to the best-pre­served and largest me­dieval fortress in Europe, con­cluded in Chartres, site of a vast cathe­dral known for its stained­glass windows.

Days like these are re­ferred to as “trans­fer” stages, for mov­ing the Tour from one area to the next — from Brit­tany to north­cen­tral France in this case, as the race winds to­ward Sun­day’s highly an­tic­i­pated cob­ble­stoned leg to Roubaix near the Bel­gian bor­der.

was quite long — 230k. You can ask the ques­tion, is this re­ally nec­es­sary in a Grand Tour? But ev­ery­one kind of en­joyed it — the first day we could re­ally re­lax.”

Af­ter a few early at­tacks failed, Yoann Of­fredo launched a solo ef­fort 35 kilo­me­tres in.

The French rider with the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team es­tab­lished an ad­van­tage of more than eight min­utes — the big­gest break­away lead in this year’s Tour — be­fore be­ing caught by the pack with 90 kilo­me­tres still to go.

Lau­rent Pi­chon, an­other French rider with For­tu­neoSam­sic, then also got away alone for a spell.

But, in the end, it came down to a bunch sprint as ex­pected.

Stage 8 on Satur­day cov­ers a slightly more chal­leng­ing ter­rain over 181 kilo­me­tres from Dreux to Amiens, but again should set up well for sprint­ers.

The over­all favourites should be tested again in Roubaix, be­fore head­ing down to the Alps next week.

CHRISTOPHE ENA THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Nether­lands’ Dy­lan Groe­newe­gen cel­e­brates as he crosses the fin­ish line to win the sev­enth stage of the Tour de France Fri­day.

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