CHALON-SUR-SATNE, France: Dutch speed king Dylan Groenewegen edged an ultra-tight bunch sprint on stage seven of the Tour de France on Friday as Italy’s Giulio Ciccone retained the overall race lead.
Groenewegen beat Australia’s Caleb Ewan in a photo-finish to make up for the pain of falling on stage one on the Brussels home straight.
Peter Sagan retained the sprinters’ points green jersey after finishing third.
Defending champion Geraint Thomas and his Ineos co-captain Egan Bernal finished safely in the pack.
Pure sprinter Groenewegen was left sat on his backside in Brussels when he had been red-hot favourite to win.
He was left to wonder what might have been as his teammate Mike Teunissen won the opening stage and pulled on the overall leader’s yellow jersey.
On the longest stage of the Tour at 230km, the riders involved in the summit showdown the day before were in relaxed mood.
“I’m looking forwards to a quiet couple of stages now, we’re all really calm after a good day yesterday,” said 22-year-old Bernal ahead of the stage.
Television viewers were given a series of spectacular panoramas as the peloton, led by a beaming overall leader Ciccone, wound slowly out of the rolling hills of the Alsace with its storks and quaint villages of half-wooden houses.
But with an escape group zooming five minutes ahead after 80km, sprinter Elia Viviani’s Deceuninck-Quick-Step team cranked up the tempo on the flat plains of Burgundy, renowned for its wines and cuisine.
Stephane Rossetto of Cofidis and Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Gobert led from the start to 5km from home, before the peloton caught them to set up a sprint finish.