Greg Van Avermaet ensured he would head into the highly anticipated Roubaix stage in the yellow jersey tomorrow after crossing the line safely behind the bunch sprint in Amiens on Tour de France stage 7 today.
It was a calm start to the day with the peloton covering 23km, of the 181km course, before three riders made the first serious move of the day to open up an advantage that was sitting at over 5’30” at the top of the Côte de Pacy-sur-Eure, the first of two category four climbs.
After tipping over the six-minute mark, the gap to the two remaining breakaway riders, Fabien Grellier (Team Direct Énergie) and Marco Minnaard (Wanty – Groupe Gobert), began to settle down as the sprinters’ teams took control of the pacemaking.
Going over the Côte de Feuquerolles, with over 100km still to race, the peloton had pulled the leading duo back to four minutes and the gap continued to hover around there before starting to fall again approaching the 70km to go mark.
BMC Racing Team was maintaining a constant presence at the front of the peloton as the leaders’ advantage was brought back to inside 1’30” and the catch was eventually made by a reduced main bunch inside the final 7km after a crash 10km earlier.
It didn’t take long for the battle for position to begin as the speed picked up going through the heart of Amiens and in the end, the predicted bunch sprint played out with Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo) once again taking the stage win.
Van Avermaet, who extended his overall advantage to seven seconds after taking a bonus second at the sprint with 20.5km to go, will now head into his sixth day in the yellow jersey on stage 9 tomorrow.
Richie Porte was once again looked after by his teammates all day and after finishing safely in the bunch, he moved up into 10th overall on the General Classification while Tejay van Garderen continues to sit third.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Greg Van Avermaet:
“Everything is going well. I was hoping for one day in yellow but not as many as this. I am really enjoying it every day. It is something special and it will be great if I can keep it in Roubaix. It will be nice to go onto the cobbles with the yellow jersey and hopefully I get an extra day after tomorrow.”
“It is definitely going to be different as this is the first time that there has been this many cobbles on a Tour de France stage. You will have GC riders being protected by their team but they aren’t going for the win, they are just going up there to not lose too much time. I think there will be a small group of riders who can have a little bit of freedom so it will be pretty strange. I think it is going to be really hectic, really fast from start to finish and I think positioning will be key on every sector.”
“For us, it will be a team effort. We are a team and have had a lot of guys working for Richie and me over these past few days. They are doing a great job so far and hopefully, we can keep up the good work tomorrow and get ourselves into position with Richie in my wheel. That would be the best and then he just has to try and follow for a long as possible and for sure, he can then maybe even gain time on the other contenders.”
“A lot of things can happen tomorrow and there will be a lot of stress around. I hope to be good. Having no problems, no crashes and no flat tires would be a great thing already and then if I don’t have any of those problems, I think I can be up there in the final and hopefully, Richie is with me.”
“I think calm at the start means that it’s hectic in the final but we did a super job as a team today. Greg took another bonus second and the guys really did a great job. Michi Schär, Stefan Küng and Paddy Bevin really rode super well today. We stayed in a great position and tomorrow is another day but it is nice to get through to where we are at now.”
“It’s nerve-racking going into tomorrow’s stage. It’s not what we are used to but we have the team for it. We’ve got some of the strongest guys in the race so hopefully, we stay out of trouble.”