Friday’s seventh stage of the 2021 Tour de France produced an unbelievable day of racing in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Coming into the day, the hilly stage profile suggested that attacking racing would be on the cards.
Attacking racing was exactly what we got, but the scale of things was most unexpected. The race kicked into gear well outside of 200 kilometers to go, when a high powered breakaway began to form.
Belgian champion Wout van Aert, 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, green jersey Mark Cavendish and the race leader Mathieu van der Poel were all present. Understandably, this made for a very interesting tactical situation.
With Tadej Pogačar’s UAE Team Emirates shouldering most of the chasing duties, the strongest riders in the race saw a major opportunity to move up in the general classification. With the time gap approaching seven minutes in the final 90 kilometers, there was a real possibility for significant shifts.
The complexion of the race changed again with 86 km to go, when Matej Mohorič and Brent van Moer attacked out of the breakaway.
From that point on, there was a steady pattern of attacks from the break as riders tried to bridge to the front of the race. At the same time, the chase in the peloton was punctuated by flyers from various GC contenders, including Richard Carapaz.
All this meant that there was no shortage of action unfolding on the roads of eastern France.
Stage 7 Winner
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) July 2, 2021
In the end, it was Slovenian champion Matej Mohorič who held off his breakaway companions to take his first ever Tour de France stage win. In doing so, the 26-year-old became a member of an exclusive club of riders to win a stage at all three Grand Tours.
🇸🇮 @matmohoric took a brilliant victory in Le Creusot to make it a stage win in each of the Grand Tours. Here's the final KM. 🏅
— Tour de France™ (@LeTour) July 2, 2021
This is probably the biggest win of Mohorič’s career so far. The emotion of the moment was etched across his face as he hit the line. It has been an impressive comeback for Mohorič. The Slovenian crashed out of the Giro d’Italia in a scary incident around a month and a half ago.
Mohorič used his climbing and descending skills perfectly to remain out front and convert the victory.
Milano-Sanremo winner Jasper Stuyven took second on the day. The Belgian finished 1:20 down after Mohorič dropped him on the penultimate climb.
The van der Poel – van Aert group was led home 20 seconds later by Magnus Cort. The seven minute advantage did not quite last, but Mohorič did gain 5:15 on the GC group, led home by Julian Alaphilippe.
Tour de France General Classification
— La Flamme Rouge (@laflammerouge16) July 2, 2021
The General Classification of Le Tour certainly looks different today than it did yesterday.
The biggest winner on the day was probably Mohorič himself. The Slovenian gained 29 places and is now all the way up to fourth. Kasper Asgreen and Vincenzo Nibali both also jumped into the top thanks to their efforts in the breakaway. The two riders are now sitting in third and sixth place respectively.
Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert, the two great cyclocross rivals, now hold first and second in the overall standings. The two men were locked together the whole stage, and are now separated by just 30 seconds on GC.
The notable loser of the day was Primož Roglič. The Jumbo-Visma leader lost almost four minutes on the GC group, sliding back 23 places in the process. Roglič was very unfortunate to crash hard earlier in the race. Hopefully he can recover and try to win a stage in the mountains.
In the meantime, Jumbo-Visma must navigate an interesting situation. Wout van Aert is in second, and he could potentially inherit the race lead on the Col de la Colombière tomorrow. Alternatively, Jonas Vingegaard is in 11th place, 5:18 back of van der Poel. The Belgian had a very impressive result at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier in the season, but the Dane is a more traditional GC rider. It remains to be seen how exactly Jumbo-Visma will respond to this scenario.
For the time being, Tadej Pogačar remains the favorite. However, other teams showed today that it is possible to put him under pressure by leveraging a numerical advantage.
The defending Tour champion currently sits 3:43 back of the race leader van der Poel. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Pogačar will quickly reverse that deficit in the mountains.
On the other hand, this Tour de France has already reminded us that the van der Poel – van Aert combination are more than capable of conjuring up the spectacular.
If the first seven days are any indication, we are in for a rollercoaster of a final two weeks.
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Featured image courtesy of @bettiniphoto.