Tour de France - Mohoric
Team Bahrain's Matej Mohoric of Slovenia noses ahead during the seventh stage of the Tour de France cycling race on Friday. Image Credit: AFP

Le Creusot, France: Primoz Roglic suffered a major meltdown as Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz potentially emerged as the only rider able to challenge defending champion Tadej Pogacar for the Tour de France title at the end of a brutal seventh stage on Friday.

Last year’s runner-up Roglic cracked on the last climb of an undulating stage in central France, which was won by his fellow Slovenian Matej Mohoric from a big breakaway group.

Roglic finished the 249.1-km ride from Vierzon almost four minutes behind the peloton, which included the other top overall contenders, with Carapaz launching a late attack before eventually being reined in.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 champion, featured in the 28-man breakaway with yellow jersey holder Mathieu van der Poel and seized the opportunity to move up in the rankings before the race hits the mountains in the Jura and the Alps on Saturday.

Overall, Van der Poel leads Belgian Wout van Aert by 30 seconds with Slovenian Pogacar in fifth place, 3:43 off the pace and Nibali in sixth, 29 seconds behind Pogacar.

Carapaz, whose move suggested he has the legs to challenge Pogacar in the mountains, is in 12th position, 5:19 behind Van der Poel.

His Ineos-Grenadiers team mate Geraint Thomas, the 2018 champion, managed to finish in the main bunch but struggled on the last ascent - a worrying omen before Saturday’s eighth stage, a mountain trek to Le Grand Bornand.

Van Aert was the early attacker on the longest stage of this year’s Tour, and Van der Poel, wearing the yellow jersey, took on the challenge of chasing down his longstanding rival by himself.

The move caused a split in the bunch that left 28 riders in front.

Among them was Nibali, whose best years may be behind him, but the Italian sensed an opportunity and took it as best he could.

Pogacar’s UAE team were left chasing the group, using precious fuel ahead of a demanding weekend in the mountains.

The leading group disintegrated as they reached the hilly part of the stage, while other teams, looking after their positions in the general classifications, started to pull with UAE in the main bunch.

Roglic cracked on the second-category climb of Signal d’Uchon (5.6km at 5.7%), possibly feeling the after-effects of a nasty individual crash on the third stage.