Seventh heaven: Furious stage kick-starts Tour de France

The most furious day of racing so far at the Tour de France has produced multiple winners

LAVAUR, France — The most furious day of racing so far at the Tour de France produced multiple winners Friday.

Wout Van Aert took the Stage 7 victory. It was the resurgent Belgian rider’s second win at this year’s race.

Defending champion Egan Bernal and other top contenders for the overall title dealt a blow to principal rivals by distancing them in crosswinds on the speedy approach to the finish.

Three-time world champion Peter Sagan got back the green jersey awarded to riders who collect the most points in sprints, after his team caused havoc on the road by riding furiously from the start.

And British rider Adam Yates negotiated the day’s multiple traps to keep the overall race leader’s yellow jersey.

“A really tough day,” Yates said. “We never really had a rest.”

After two relatively quiet stages, the 168-kilometer (104-mile) route into southwest France from Millau to Lavaur had also seemed ho-hum on paper. But it delivered an electroshock ahead of a weekend of climbing in the Pyrenees, with start-to-finish thrills.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe teammates rode like furies from the get-go, setting a pace so punishing that Bora rider Emanuel Buchmann set a new top speed so far at this Tour: a whopping 96 kilometers (60 miles) per hour. Many of Sagan’s sprinting rivals simply couldn’t keep up.

Among them were Alexander Kristoff, the winner of Stage 1, and Caleb Ewan, who won Stage 3. Also dropped was Sam Bennett, who started the stage wearing the green jersey that Sagan covets. Sagan has already won the points-for-sprints competition a record seven times at previous Tours and is gunning for an eighth win when the Tour finishes Sept. 20 in Paris.

In a mid-stage sprint and again later at the finish, Sagan picked up sufficient points to wrest back the jersey from Bennett. Sagan might have collected more had his chain not caught as he weaved to the line. He placed only 13th, a meager reward for his teammates’ untiring work in more than three hours of racing.

“They did an extraordinary job,” Sagan said. “I didn’t have any luck in the sprint because my chain got a bit stuck.”

Van Aert made his own luck, unstoppable in the final dash. He also won Stage 5.

“I’m really proud of this one,” he said. “Straight from the gun it was all out.”

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