15 March, 2014
Stage 7, 195.5km, Mougins - Biot Sophia Antipolis
BETANCUR in control, while SLAGTER takes secodn stage win.
Tom-Jelte Slagter (GRS) put aside an untimely mechanical problem that ruined his chances on stage 6 to take his second stage win in Biot Sophia Antipolis, outpacing world champion Rui Costa (LAM) and yellow jersey holder Carlos Betancur (ALM).
Betancur's efforts meant he increased his overall lead over nearest rival Geraint Thomas after the latter crashed with 4.5 km to go.
Heading into Sunday's winding final stage around Nice on Sunday, Betancur now leads Rui Costa by 14 seconds and Czech Zdenek Stybar by 26. Out of contention overall, Slagter, 23, still earned the most superb consolation after his previous win in Bellevile in stage 4.
Nine on the attack
From the flag, six riders parted company with the bunch: Lieuwe Westra (AST), Pim Ligthart (LTB) Laurent Didier (TFR), Sylvester Szmyd (MOV), Albert Timmer (GIA) and Florian Guillou (BSE). They were immediately chased by Mathias Frank (IAM), Brice Feillu (BSE), Marco Marcato (CAN), Cyril Lemoine (COF) and briefly by Amael Moinard (BMC). As Marcato was dropped from the chasing group, his companions caught the break (km 38) and nine men tackled the Col de Vence in the front.
Ligthart launches successful assault on Polka-Dot Jersey
Despite the best efforts of Frank, trying to save the polka-dot jersey of his IAM team leader Sylvain Chavanel, Pim Ligthart (LTB) was first on the first category pass overlooking Vence (km 49 ) and again at the top of Cote de Cipieres (3rd cat, km 67.5). As the break lost Brice Feillu, Ligthart again earned 10 points on Col de l'Ecre (km 85) and four more on the second passage of Cote de Cipieres (km 120). He finally collected the full 32 points on offer to seize the polka-dot jersey on 41 points.
As the peloton were catching most of the break shortly before the first passage on the line, Westra broke on his own (km 152). The Dutchman, runner-up to Bradley Wiggins in the 2012 edition, crossed the line with a slim lead over the bunch in which Rui Costa (LAM) surged to pick two bonus seconds ahead of Jose Joaquin Rojas (MOV). Carlos Betancur could only watch from a distance. Several skirmishes took place after the junction, the most active riders being Chavanel, Alessandro de Marchi (CAN) and Fabio Felline (TFR), involved in most coups. At the front of the bunch, AG2R kept a close watch, helped by Europcar and none of the several moves took any substantial lead. The longest of those involved Chavanel, Felline, Alex Howe (GRS), Francesco Gavazzi (AST) Jan Bakelants (OPQ), John Gadret (MOV), Yuri Trofimov (KAT), Angel Mate (COF) and Nicki Sorensen (TCS).
The final five kilometres were just as restless and Geraint Thomas, the race leader for two days, paid the full price when he crashed heavily with Franck Schleck (TFR) and Arnold Jeannesson (FDJ). The Welshman made it back on his bike but finally lost more than seven minutes with a suspected collarbone injury.
In front, AG2R, taking turns with Rui Costa's Lampre team-mates imposed a hellish pace, quashing attempts by Jakob Fuglsang (AST) and Dries Devenyns (GIA). While most sprinters, like John Degenkolb (GIA) or Bryan Coquard (EUC) could not keep up with the tempo, the battle on the line was again between the strong men of this 72d Race to the Sun. Slagter proved just a little bit too fast for Rui Costa, second for the second day in succession, while Betancur salvaged third place.