Even with two days of mountains on the horizon, the sprinters are never ones to save their energy, taking every chance they can to take the victory. With the sun beating down on stage 7, the pace was fast and furious, and in a close-fought finale, BORA-hansgrohe’s Rüdiger Selig took seventh spot, picking his line perfectly and showing the world’s best he’s a force to be reckoned with. The whole team finished with the same time as the sprinters, protecting Rafał Majka’s tenth in the GC.
In sharp contrast to the start in Germany, as the race has headed further into France, the temperatures have risen consistently. Today, while the 213.5km stage was fairly featureless, with only one fourth category climb to break up the day, it was to be a hot, sunny day, which would take a massive toll on the riders on a long stage like this. The flat finale suggested the sprinters would push once again for the win, meaning the final 20km would be fast-paced and energy sapping.
The breaks could barely wait until the race director dropped the flag to start their attacks, with a group of four going off the front, and the GC teams working hard to stop anyone else launching a counter attack. Their lead hit almost four minutes as the temperatures rose – BORA-hansgrohe’s Marcus Burghardt carrying bidons to his teammates to keep them hydrated, at times carrying up to seven bottles under his German national champion’s jersey. As the race hit its final 100km though, the character of the stage changed and the speed began to ramp up, the peloton helped by a tailwind to reduce the gap on the break.
Hitting the final 10km and the escapees were in sight, the remaining trio knowing it was only a matter of time until they were swallowed up again by the bunch after 200km out on their own, shaking hands as the peloton swept by. As a bunch sprint was now a certainty, the speeds hit 70km/h, with the peloton struggling to stay together. Riding on his own again, Rüdi Selig was up at the front, competing with some of the fastest sprinters in the professional peloton and holding his own – picking his spot perfectly and improving on his ninth on yesterday’s stage to take seventh today.
After such a strong ride, Rüdi was pleased with the outcome, and was already analysing his performance and aiming to improve. “I felt better today. I had some stomach problems the last couple of days and didn’t feel I had much power in my legs – now I’m getting better again. At 1,500m to go, I had to brake behind Greipel and lost all my speed, but managed to get on the front again. Like yesterday though, when Kittel started his sprint, I’d almost spent all my energy. I ran out of gears in the end – my 54×11 felt a bit light – but I’m happy to be feeling better and am pleased with my seventh place today.”
BORA-hansgrohe’s Team Coach, Patxi Vila, knew that even though the stage was fairly flat, the heat and the wind would take its toll on the team. “It was a very hot day, with a lot of crosswinds, so it was hard for everyone out there. Everybody worked well and protected Rafa – that was again our main goal. I’ve got huge respect for Rüdi’s effort – to fight on his own out there against the big teams is so hard, and it’s incredible how he manages to be up there where he needs to be. With his seventh place, we’re really happy today.”
A hard day awaits tomorrow, as the Tour flexes its climbing muscles again. The whole day is undulating, but the stage will be decided on the final climb – the 11.7km first category climb forming a perfect launchpad for a late attack before the finish in Station des Rousses. A brave rider can take a solo win – if they pick the right spot to break away.