|On Bastille Day, you can normally expect the French teams to inject some excitement into the proceedings, and as expected, there was a French rider in the break. While the escape held the peloton at bay as long as they could, the sprinters had earmarked this stage for themselves, and once the final kilometres came into view, there was no stopping them. The UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, was in a good position ahead of the finale, but a long sprint effort saw him passed shortly ahead of the line. However, having taken fourth on the line, a declassification saw him promoted to second position. His points in both the finish and intermediate sprint confirmed his Green Jersey for another day. In the overall standings, Rafał Majka gained a spot to put him in eighth, with just a few days before the GC race really starts to take shape.
The classification for today’s stage was ‘flat’, but this didn’t mean the day would be easy. You could be certain that the French teams would try to make themselves known on Bastille Day, while yesterday’s long effort would make every pedal stroke an immense effort, and that was before taking into account the two categorised climbs which, while not particularly steep, averaging 4.3%, were long for their classification. Shortly after the second climb would be the day’s intermediate sprint, requiring teams to regroup to get their sprinters into position – a challenge after the day’s climbs. Undulating terrain followed before a gentle downhill brought the peloton towards the predicted sprint finish after 181km of racing.
The Team Tactics
While riders would be looking forward to the first rest day, there were still some hard days of riding to contend with, while the opportunities for the sprinters were starting to disappear as the race was heading into more hilly terrain in the second week. This would make the predicted sprint all the more chaotic, and so it was important for the BORA-hansgrohe team both to make sure Rafał Majka was kept safe so that he could go on to ride hard in the GC race, while also delivering Peter Sagan into position so that he would be in contention for the sprint. Earlier in the day, the team would be aiming to make sure Peter was delivered to the intermediate sprint in a strong position.
To inject a little more excitement into proceedings, Marcus Burghardt decided to go on the attack when the flag dropped to start the stage. While the German rider clearly had the legs to make an impact, he decided to drop back to the peloton to allow other riders the chance to escape. He didn’t have long to wait, as a small group, eventually becoming just two riders, made their way out, building a lead that topped out at six minutes. Delivered to the intermediate sprint by his BORA-hansgrohe teammates, Peter Sagan took fourth spot, tightening his grip on the Maillot Vert. As the day went on, the break’s lead fell steadily until the peloton was in touching distance. The catch made with 6km remaining, teams started gearing up for the sprint as the character of the route changed to challenging streets with tight turns and road furniture. The speeds increasing and the finish line in sight, the UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, went from 300m out and was able to put some space between himself and the other sprinters, but this long and early push allowed his rivals to use his slipstream and pass him, the Slovak rider having to settle for fourth position after this hard effort. However, due to an incident in the finale where Gaviria and Greipel, who ultimately finished ahead of Peter in the sprint, were jostling for position, both were relegated, pushing him into second on the stage and extending his lead in the points contest. In the GC race, Rafał moved up one place to eighth, just one second off seventh spot.
01 D.Groenewegen 4h23’36”
02 P.Sagan +0:00
03 J.Degenkolb +0:00
04 A.Kristoff +0:00
05 A.Démare +0:00
From the Finish Line
“In yet another flat stage that finished with a fast bunch sprint, the team worked hard to keep Rafał and me safe and out of trouble. I was well positioned in the final stretch but I think I started my sprint a bit early and couldn’t hold off the other sprinters coming from behind. Tomorrow is another day where we will take our chances and make sure we finish without incidents.” – Peter Sagan, UCI Weltmeister
“It was another day where the team did a great job. There was a big crash into the final 20km, but thanks to our strong efforts in the bunch, our leaders were able to stay well clear. Pawel was involved, but he is fine. In the end, Peter showed a really strong sprint, but he went a little bit too early, so the other riders managed to overtake him in the last 50m. If the stages are as easy as today, it is simply not good for us since a lot of fast guys go fresh into the sprint finish. Still, we are happy, Peter is still in Green and the fight for the jersey became more promising after the relegation of two of the strongest contenders. However, tomorrow’s stage to Roubaix will be a totally different story.” – Enrico Poitschke, sportlicher Leiter