Van Aert wins intense Stage 7; Pogacar drops out of top 10

Lavaur, France, Sep 4 (efe-epa).- Belgian Wout van Aert became the first cyclist to win two stages at the 2020 Tour de France, powering his way to victory Friday in an action-packed, wind-blown stretch from Millau to Lavaur.

Stage 7 also was marked by a significant shake-up in the General Classification, with the United Kingdom’s Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) finishing ninth and holding on to the overall leader’s yellow jersey but Slovenian darkhorse Tadej Bogacar (UAE Team Emirates) falling victim to potent crosswinds and dropping from third to 16th.

The 25-year-old Van Aert, a three-time cyclo-cross world champion who rides for Jumbo-Visma, beat out a reduced group of sprinters to the finish line.

The Belgian Stage 5 winner averaged a blistering 47 kilometers (29 miles) per hour and crossed the line in three hours, 32 minutes and three seconds, just ahead of Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT Pro Cycling) and Frenchman Bryan Coquard (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept).

Slovak three-time world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was in a strong position for the win but a dropped chain caused him to drop to 13th.

“I didn’t expect this morning that I’d be competing for the victory. It’s more of a surprise today. Nobody expected such a hard race!” Van Aert was quoted as saying afterward on the Tour de France’s website.

The 168-km stage started with a furious push by Maximilian Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) and his teammates up the Cote de Luzencon, a move that aided Sagan’s bid for an eighth points title while denting the hopes of his chief rival, Ireland’s Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick Step), who ended up surrendering his green jersey to the Slovak on Friday.

Like Bennett, several other sprinters also were caught on the wrong side of the split in the peloton, including Australian Lotto Seudal rider Caleb Ewan, Norwegian Stage 1 winner Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates), Italian NTT Pro Cycling Team cyclist Giacomo Nizzolo, Italy’s Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and the Netherlands’ Cees Bol (Team Sunweb)

Sagan lost out to Italian CCC Team rider Matteo Trentin in the intermediate sprint at Saint-Sernin-sur-Rance, but even so the Slovak’s team continued to put more distance between the seven-time points champion and Bennett.

Just as the Irishman relinquished his green jersey, Pogacar ceded his white jersey (best young rider) to defending champion Egan Bernal when the Colombian’s Ineos-Grenadiers team capitalized on a three-quarter tail wind to open up an echelon with 35 km remaining.

Yates escaped danger to stay with the leading group, while Pogacar, Australia’s Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Spain’s Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) all were left behind and lost one hour and 21 minutes.

Colombian Mitchelton-Scott rider Esteban Chaves also finished in that latter group and fell from seventh to 17th in the overall standings.

Afterward, Bernal talked about the need to seize all opportunities to gain time.

“In the finale, we’ve seen the opportunity and we took advantage of it to split the bunch. I think it’s something good: the Tour de France is also won in stages like this one, you have to use all terrains,” he was quoted as saying on the Tour’s official website.

Saturday will mark a shift in the race as the cyclists tackle the first of two consecutive Pyrenees stages: Cazeres to Loudenvielle.

The competitors will face three tough climbs up the Col de Mente, Port de Bales and Col de Peyresourde, although Stage 8 could be decided in a 12-km descent to the finish line. EFE-EPA


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