Belgian cyclist Wout Van Aert took a second win of the Tour de France 2020 after an explosive Stage 7, a 168km ride from Millau to Lavaur, saw the peloton blow apart from the outset and Peter Sagan move back into the green jersey.
Van Aert on Friday led home a select, lead group of race favourites to deliver Jumbo-Visma’s third win of the race as Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar (UAE-Team Emirates) became the big casualty in the battle for yellow.
Tour debutant Pogacar was dropped in the crosswinds during a frenetic conclusion to an already highly combative 168km stage, the 21-year-old crossing the line over a minute down to plummet out of the top 10 and lose the white jersey.
Spain’s Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren), Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Australia’s Richie Porte and his Trek-Segafredo teammate Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands were all caught out after the expected winds wreaked havoc in the peloton, while Colombia’s Dani Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) shipped the best part of 15 minutes.
Britain’s Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) successfully negotiated the accelerations and echelons to retain the yellow jersey by three seconds on Slovenia’s Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) as Frenchman Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) moved up to third place at nine seconds after what proved to be the most captivating stage of the race so far.
On a day that looked destined for the sprinters, the majority of the peloton’s fast men were shelled out the back of the peloton inside the opening 10km of the race by some ferocious tempo-setting by the well-drilled Bora-Hansgrohe team of Sagan, sniffing out an opportunity in the heat of southern France.
With Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) among those caught out by the early fireworks, Sagan was able to move back into the virtual green jersey in the intermediate sprint.
A brief foray off the front from Belgium’s Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) never looked likely to stick, and when the much vaunted vent d’Autan blew up a storm inside the final 35 kilometres, what was left of the peloton split in two on the approach into Lavaur.
Sagan was unable to build on the hard work done by his Bora teammates, the misfiring Slovakian disappointing in 13th place – enough, however, to see him return to the top of the green jersey standings with a slender lead of nine points over Bennett.
But with his second stage win of the race, both riders may well be looking over their shoulders to van Aert, who has now risen to third place in that classification – proof that the 26-year-old’s thrilling consistency and superior kick.
Green, however, may prove a distraction for Jumbo-Visma and Van Aert will be back on domestique duty for teammates Roglic and fifth-place Dumoulin on Saturday as the race enters the Pyrenees for the first of two mountain stages that should test the yellow jersey credentials of Yates at the end of the first week of racing.