When I bemoaned the opening week of sprint stages yesterday I didn’t expect someone would do something to make this last one exciting. Someone did. Actually a team of somebodies: the team of Peter Sagan, Cannondale.
There was no bluff to Cannondale’s plan for Stage 7 – get Sagan the win. How? By dropping all of his competitors before the finish.
They executed their plan to perfection.
Cannondale, with some help from Orica-GreenEdge the team of the yellow jersey holder Daryl Impey, set a blistering pace at the front. If the peloton thought they were going to be able to take it kind of easy before tomorrow’s tough stage in the Pyrenees, they were sorely mistaken – pun intended.
The first break of the day was old man Jens Voigt (Radio Shack) and Blel Kadri (AG2R) getting out in front, with Kadri picking up KOM points on the first two climbs and Kadri’s teammate outsprinting Pierre Rolland who had held the KOM jersey ensuring Kadri would capture the polka-dot jersey which he did.
Meanwhile OGE could sit behind Cannondale and let them do the work – good for them. No need to work when another team has an agenda. They managed to split the peloton dropping all the other main sprinters on the category 2 climb and continued to drill the pace until the intermediate sprint. I have to believe that was Cannondale’s plan – to get Sagan points to increase his hold on the green jersey – but when they saw they had dropped the likes of Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel, they decided why not go for the stage win.
So basically Cannondale gave Sagan a 190k lead-out. Their work at the front was nothing short of phenomenal.
Later in the stage Cannondale/OGE had to chase down a more threatening break with previous yellow jersey wearer Jan Bakelandts. Since Bakelandts was within striking distance of taking back the yellow jersey OGE shared in the work of chasing them down, although Cannondale still did the majority of the work. They caught them 3k from the finish and the race for the stage win was on.
Somehow Sagan and his teammates had enough left to take care of business. Sagan had to start his sprint from a long way out and in a less than optimum position. It didn’t matter. Argos-Shimano’s sprinter Degenkolb nearly caused him to go into the wall getting ahead of Sagan, but Sagan rocketed past him to take his much deserved first stage win of the 2013 Tour de France.
No choreographed victory salute for Sagan this time, just an acknowledgement to team sponsor Cannondale. He looked exhausted, I’m sure he was, along with his team no doubt. They gave us a great display of teamwork and perfect execution – it was a joy to watch.
I was equally happy that Impey kept the yellow jersey. For a new team, OGE have had a phenomenal week at the Tour, and just think, it was their bus that got things going.
In other news Christian Van de Velde had to abandon the Tour today after suffering another crash early in the stage. Hopefully he’ll be all healed up and ready to defend his US Pro Cycling Challenge championship in August.
Since I have Peter Sagan on my Fantasy Cycling Challenge team I picked up 125 points today, bringing the total thus far to a not-so-great 463.
Stage 8 is a doozy – the first day in the Pyrenees – and it’s a tough one. We should see a major shakeup in the GC and jersey competitions. Just please don’t let Sky get yellow.