Cavendish - Sagan gap opens after mountainous chase to Albi

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Tour de France 2013 stage 7 | Montpellier to Albi 205km
Event: 5 July 2013
Report: Eddie Allen

Britain’s Mark Cavendish endured another frustrating day on stage seven as the race headed for the hills. Cavendish, along with a number of his adversaries, fell back from a peloton animated by green jersey rival Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team and despite an arduous chase over four categorised cols and cotes, the British champion was unable to get back on terms as the race reached its conclusion in Albi.

With the big mountains looming over the next two stages, Team Sky kept their leader Chris Froome out of trouble – keeping to the fore of the peloton and letting Cannondale do the lion’s share of the work.

Labelled as a ‘transition’ stage, the 205km schlep from Montpellier to Albi was no easy ride. Not a mountain stage in the pure sense, it nonetheless featured four categorised climbs topping out with the 2nd category ascent of the Col de la Croix de Mounis. So it came as no surprise to see the bulk of the sprinters slip back from the peloton over the first two climbs.

Such stages are ripe for breakaways and it came as no surprise to see the oldest man in the race, 41 year old Jens Voigt (RadioShack) break away in the early stages with one of the youngest men in the 2013 tour, Blel Kadri (AG2R Mondiale). The pair stayed away over the first two climbs of the day, enough for Kadri to take the lead in the mountains competition. The two were eventually reeled in by Peter Sagan’s Cannondale team leading the peloton, the Slovakian keen to press home his advantage in the points competition on a day which threatened to punish the sprint purists.

In the early stages Cavendish was in the last group on the road but another group containing sprint rivals Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) was further up the road, the British champion keen to link up with his rivals, form an uneasy alliance and limit his losses. The Cavendish and Greipel groups met on the elevated plateau of the Croix de Mounis but the gap to the peloton was over two minutes, allowing Sagan to monopolise the intermediate sprint at Viane.

Following the sprint and onto the 3rd category climb of the Cote de la Quintaine, the second of the day’s breaks went away, with stage two winner Jan Bakelants (RadioShack) joined by serial escapee Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Juan Jose Oroz (Euskatel). Bakelants took the top mountain points and the trio descended around 40 seconds ahead of the peloton, who in turn had maintained a healthy gap to the Cavendish/Greipel/Kittel group. As the long hot afternoon wore on, the narrative became that of a furious chase movie, with Cannondale going like a train at the front of the peloton in an attempt to keep Cavendish at bay.

They say that every action has an equal and opposite action and with 40 kilometres to go the efforts of the Cavendish group had been nullified by that of Cannondale driven peloton. Inevitably the Cavendish group visibly sat up and the day’s story refocused on the yellow jersey battle; Jan Bakelants, almost a minute up the road with Gautier and Oroz, was virtual yellow jersey on the road and the Orica GreenEDGE boys were reluctant to surrender hold on the overall race lead, which they’d variously occupied for the past few days.

Onto the Cote de Teillet and the Bakelants led group still had almost a minute on the main field but with only the descent to the finish remaining the bunch began to chip away at the breakaway lead. With 20 kilometres to go however, the lead had crystallised at around 40 seconds and the seemingly inevitable endgame hung in the balance. Cannondale and Orica GreenEDGE were getting little support from other teams and Bakelants eyed a second stage victory yet eventually the combined firepower of the two teams began to eke away at the gap.

The catch eventually came as the race entered the outskirts of Albi and in the end Cannodale and Sagan’s self fulfilling prophecy came true, winning their first 2013 Tour de France stage.

Almost 15 minutes later the huge autobus group containing Cavendish group crossed the line and the recovery process began ahead of the first big mountain stage of the 2013 event.

Stage Result

1 SAGAN Peter Cannondale Pro Cycling Team 4:54:12
2 DEGENKOLB John Team Argos - Shimano ,,
3 BENNATI Daniele Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,
4 KWIATKOWSKI Michal Omega Pharma - Quick-Step ,,
5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Sky Procycling ,,
6 GAVAZZI Francesco Astana Pro Team ,,
7 GALLOPIN Tony RadioShack - Leopard ,,
8 VICHOT Arthur Equipe Cycliste ,,
9 MORI Manuele Lampre - Merida ,,
10 CHAVANEL Sylvain Omega Pharma - Quick-Step ,,

General Classification

1 IMPEY Daryl Orica GreenEDGE 27:12:29
2 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Sky Procycling 00:03
3 GERRANS Simon Orica GreenEDGE 00:05
4 ALBASINI Michael Orica GreenEDGE ,,
5 KWIATKOWSKI Michal Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 00:06
6 CHAVANEL Sylvain Omega Pharma - Quick-Step ,,
7 FROOME Christopher Sky Procycling 00:08
8 PORTE Richie Sky Procycling ,,
9 ROCHE Nicolas Team Saxo-Tinkoff 00:14
10 KREUZIGER Roman Team Saxo-Tinkoff ,,

Points Classification

1 SAGAN Peter Cannondale Pro Cycling Team 224
2 GREIPEL Andre Lotto Belisol Team 130
3 CAVENDISH Mark Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 119
4 KRISTOFF Alexander Katusha Team 111
5 BOASSON HAGEN Edvald Sky Procycling 88
6 KITTEL Marcel Team Argos - Shimano 87
7 KWIATKOWSKI Michal Omega Pharma - Quick-Step 75
8 ROJAS GIL Jose Joaquin Movistar Team 71
9 FLECHA Juan Antonio Vacansoleil - DCM 69
10 VAN POPPEL Danny Vacansoleil - DCM 65