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Italian Matteo Trentin won the seventh stage of the Tour de France Friday in Nancy, on a difficult day for American GC contenders as both Tejay van Garderen and Andrew Talansky went down in separate crashes inside the final 20km.
Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) took the stage win from a small group, in a photo finish ahead of Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
“At first I didn’t know if I’d won. It was so close that I wasn’t sure. I congratulated Peter because I thought it was him. From 50 meters out I saw him arriving like a bullet,” said Trentin.”It was really a sprint down to the last centimeter.”
The finish was marred with two crashes inside the final kilometer, including a dramatic collision between Garmin’s Andrew Talansky and Orica-GreenEdge rider Simon Gerrans that saw Talansky tumbling across the pavement with 200 meters to go. Talansky crossed the finish line on his own, walking his damaged bike the remaining distance.
The rolling 234.5km (145-mile) stage from Épernay to Nancy delivered a pair of category 4 climbs in the final hour — the 3km Cote de Maron, which topped out 17km from the finish line, and the 1.3km Cote de Boufflers, which peaked just 5km from the finish line.
Cannondale manned the front for much of the stage, looking to set up Sagan for the stage win. Other teams contributing to the chase included Tinkoff-Saxo, FDJ, Movistar, and the Astana team of race leader Vincenzo Nibali.
Frenchman Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) finished third, while Nibali finished safely in the front peloton to keep hold of the yellow jersey.
“There’s been lots of crashes so far and again today in the sprint finish,” said Nibali. “The end of the stage was very tough, I knew Sagan wanted to win but Trentin won a great sprint. It was only at end that it was very fast because it was downhill and I wanted to stay at the front.”
Cannondale at the front
At km 8, the day’s breakaway formed. In the group were Swiss national champion Martin Elmiger (IAM), Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp), Alexandre Pichot (Europcar), American Matthew Busche (Trek), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), and Anthony Delaplace (Bretagne). Within 22km, the gap had opened its gap to a maximum of 4:05.
After six hard days of racing, the stage saw several riders abandon. Belkin’s Stef Clement suffered a crash in the first hour of the stage, and was unable to continue. With 75km to go, Danny van Poppel, the youngest rider to start this Tour, abandoned due knee pain, making 21-year-old Simon Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) the youngest rider in the race.
With 60km remaining, the six-man breakaway group held a 56-second advantage.
Questioned during the race by French TV, Cannondale sport director Stefano Zanatta explained why his team was doing so much of the work. “With two small climbs, the finale is good for Sagan. That’s why we do all the work at the head of the peloton,” he said. “We have taken the responsibilities because we have the best team. I hope that Peter will win. He had a good night after his crash yesterday. He doesn’t suffer. He’s got the strength and the personality for finishing it off today.”
Sagan, who had finished in the top-five on the first six stages, started the day with a massive 80-point lead over Europcar’s Bryan Coquard in the points competition. At the day’s intermediate sprint, with 86km to go, Coquard took nine points, to Sagan’s seven, brining the Cannondale rider’s advantage down to 78 points.
With 40km to go, four of the riders from the six-man breakaway sat up; Elmiger (IAM) and Huzarski (NetApp) pressed on, extending their gap to 1:20.
With 25km to go, Huzarski and Elmiger held 25 seconds lead over the peloton, which was led by Team Sky riders Bernhard Eisel and Vassili Kiryienka, riding in support of Australian Richie Porte.
Elmiger and Huzarski were caught at 19km to go, at the bottom of the Cote de Maron.
Late-race attacks — and crashes
The first rider to attack was Frenchman Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), with Yates (Orica-GreenEdge) driving the chase. Those dropped on the first climb included sprinters Marcel Kittel, Arnaud Demare, and Andre Greipel. All of the main GC contenders were together over the top of the Maron with 17km to go.
Early on the descent, Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing), who was already sporting a bandage after crashing on stage 5, went down in a crash when a rider from Movistar ran into his rear wheel, after what appeared to be an overlapping of wheels between van Garderen and his BMC teammate Peter Stetina.
After the pileup, Stetina stopped for his teammate and paced him, with van Garderen riding on Peter Velits’ bike; van Garderen’s teammate Darwin Atapuma did not recover from the crash, and abandoned.
“I was on my teammates’ wheel. I really don’t know what happened,” van Garderen told a pack of journalists outside the team bus. “Someone swerved over, and I feel like I was taken out by behind. Someone hit the brakes in front, I had to hit the brakes, and someone came up from behind. It all happened so fast, it was hard to tell.”
With 10km remaining, van Garderen was 53 seconds behind the front group, with several BMC teammates dropping back to pace him.
At the front of the bunch, Trek’s Jens Voigt pushed the pace for his teammate, Fabian Cancellara, however Cancellara suffered a mechanical and lost contact.
On the Cote de Boufflers, the first attack came from Cyril Gautier (Europcar), which was brought back by Nicolas Roche (Tinkoff-Saxo), with teammate Alberto Contador on his wheel.
Next to attack was BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet, with 5.4km to go, a move that brought out Sagan. Behind, Garmin’s Andrew Talansky drove the chase.
Sagan and Van Avermaet went clear on the descent, while, behind, Cancellara helped pace van Garderen back to the pack.
With Orica chasing, Sagan and Van Avermaet were reeled in at 1km to go.
A pair of crashes in the final kilometer saw two GC riders go down, first Jurgen Van den Brocek (Lotto-Belisol), and then Talansky.
“The guys in front of me crash and I had no way to go to,” Van den Broeck wrote on Twitter. “Didn’t want to take risk in the sprint. And still they crash, like they say #sh*t happens.”
Talansky’s crash occurred much closer to the finish line. In the final sprint he looked to his right and drifted left, just as Gerrans came right, from Talansky’s left, taking out Talansky’s front wheel. Talansky crashed hard on his left shoulder, and was unable to ride his damaged bike across the finish line.
Ahead, Trentin took the sprint from Sagan, who still had the legs to challenge, in a photo finish. Stage 7 marked Sagan’s seventh consecutive stage of this Tour finishing inside the top five, yet he’s still without a stage win.
“When I win many people say that for me it’s easy to do it, but today’s stage proves that it’s always hard being first,” Sagan said. “Since the first stage, every day I’m among the main contenders and now I wear the green jersey with a good advantage. This is a positive aspect, but I want something more. I know there will be other chances until Paris and I think that my day will arrive.”
Because Talansky crashed inside the final 3km, he did not lose any time; he sits eighth overall, 2:05 behind Nibali.
Van Garderen crossed the finish line 1:03 down. He now sits 18th overall, at 3:14. He later posted to Twitter, “The Tour is cruel and unforgiving. Gotta keep fighting.”
Talansky angry as Gerrans claims ‘unfortunate circumstances’
Debate raged as to whether Talansky or Gerrans was at fault for the crash that brought Garmin’s GC leader tumbling to the ground.
What was clear was that Talansky looked left, rather than straight, in the final sprint, and that Gerrans’ line deviated distinctly in the sprint, from the left side of the road to the right.
After the stage Talansky was furious. He rode past the Orica team bus, looking for an apology, telling director Julian Dean that Gerrans had been responsible, saying, “I moved out of the way to let the sprinters do their sprint, and he took me out.”
Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters tried to remain diplomatic. “He (Talansky) is okay, he’s very angry and very annoyed but physically he’s okay,” Vaughters said. “I don’t know if it’s Gerrans’ fault or not but he (Talansky) is annoyed. There was a risk of breaking his hand on the handlebar (as he crashed). He hasn’t lost time and I think tomorrow he’ll be OK. It’s not exactly perfect for the Tour de France but it’s not something that will affect him a lot.”
Gerrans said the mishap was accidental by both riders, under unfortunate circumstances.
“I am sorry Talansky crashed, I think he fell over my back wheel there in the final 100 meters or so,” Gerrans said. “I think when you watch the footage there was absolutely nothing intentional about it. I don’t think either of us did too much wrong it was just an unfortunate thing that happened under the circumstances.”
On Twitter, two riders familiar with hectic sprint finishes, Taylor Phinney and Robbie McEwen — an American and an Australian — both placed blame on Talansky.
“In no sprint do you look around like that,” Phinney wrote. “Gerrans sprinted straight–watch the white line. Not his fault.”
McEwen took a stronger tone, writing, “how dumb was Talansky’s crash. no reason to look around & drift mid sprint #amateurhour … for the offended Talansky fans, it’s nothing personal. And Gerrans didn’t ‘swing’ across. He was following the group. Talansky drifted. I hope Talansky is ok & it doesn’t affect the rest of his tour. rule #1 Eyes to the front. Rule#2: look where ur going, not where u’ve been.”