Tour de France 2023
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) once again proved himself to be the fastest sprinter at the Tour de France, taking out his third victory of the three stages for the fast men so far in the 2023 race.
Another stellar lead out from Mathieu van der Poel delivered Philipsen to a commanding victory – denying Mark Cavendish (Astana Qazaqstan) his 35th Tour stage win by a bike length.
The Manxman could be consoled by coming far closer to breaking the all-time record than in the previous two stages but, after hitting the wind too early, he found that he had no match to the acceleration of his Belgian rival.
Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) also missed out on making history for Eritrea, finishing third.
“I think we can be proud of our team achievement. Without them it would never be possible to get this third stage win already,” Philipsen said. “I’m just really proud of how they worked already and how we found each other in the final to do everything that we can to lead to success, I’m super happy and proud.”
He acknowledged the challenge from Cavendish, who had the speed but perhaps not the timing to take a historic win.
“Cavendish was really strong, I would also love to see him win, like everybody,” Philipsen said. “For sure he will keep on trying. He’s up there and in good condition so it will be hard.”
Despite a messy, technical run-in so riddled with turns and narrow roads that the UCI extended the 3km rule that keeps riders from losing time to crashes or mechanicals to 3.6km, there seemed to be few incidents.
Bora-Hansgrohe had control coming into the final kilometre but Van der Poel poked a hole with his unbeatable acceleration, squeezing Philipsen through the melee. Jayco-AlUla were no challenge and Dylan Groenewegen got boxed in, finishing fifth as Luca Mozzato (Arkéa-Samsic) snuck through.
Philipsen gave a nod to his team for getting him through the tricky finale in a perfect position.
“I think we were a very good group in the last 3k. And even Søren [Kragh Andersen] did an amazing pull and we still had Jonas [Rickaert] and Mathieu there, I was always on a good wheel and I never had to do a big effort I launched my sprint and that’s how we win.”
After being dubbed ‘Jasper disaster’ by his team, as revealed in the Netflix series Tour de France: Unchained, Philipsen has proved himself to be anything but, and now holds a huge 88-point lead in the points classification. But he’s not calling the green jersey won, yet.
“If you told me this one week ago, I would think you were crazy. So far, it’s a dream for us and hopefully, we can continue and add another one. From now on, I’m looking to Paris also.
“From now on, it’s a goal I think to try to take this to Paris but we’re only a week in, it’s still a long and tough Tour we’ll just see. I’ll try to enjoy the moment.”
Riders of the Tour de France donned ice vests and topped off with hydration before stage 7 to Bordeaux, the 80th time the city hosted a finish in the event’s history. Before the stage, negotiations between the CPA riders’ union and the UCI commissaires led to an agreement to extend the 3km rule to 3.6km due to two tricky turns in the finale.
That meant the sprinters could unfurl their lead-outs without the overall Tour de France contenders fighting to hold position through the technical run-in, which was expected to be quite fast with a strong tailwind blowing along the river Garonne.
The heat sapped the impetus from most of the peloton and the usual fight for the breakaway melted into a languid roll-out from Mont-de-Marsan. Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), Jonas Abrahamsen (Uno-X), Simon Guglielmi (Arkéa-Samsic) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (TotalEnergies) clipped off the front of the bunch but before long, Oliveira and Abrahamsen, then Burgaudeau all opted to sit up.
That left poor Gugliemi to cover half of the stage on his own. He didn’t have to try too hard as the peloton let his lead balloon out to 6:30 in the first 20km. The sprinters’ teams put their sails up into the tailwind and steadily traveled toward Bordeaux, slowly whittling the gap down until they had a reason to burn a match or two.
The intermediate sprint in Grignols rousted the peloton from its daze. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) led out the sprint but wasn’t willing to pour too much energy into it, and faded back as Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) took the 17 points for second place ahead of Philipsen.
By that point, the gap to poor Gugliemi was under one minute and, after a few kilometres, Nans Peters (AG2R-Citroën) and Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) bridged across and edged the gap back out over a minute.
However, a massive injection of pace from Ineos Grenadiers before the sole classified climb, the Côte de Béguey (1.2km at 4.4%) with 39km to go forced the leaders to accelerate in turn, and Gugliemi found his limits and unhitched his car from the Peters/Latour train.
After the climb, Gugliemi returned to the peloton as the pace rose from a simmer to a gentle boil, with the tailwind propelling the race along. The gap stayed steady as the breakaway responded to every acceleration behind until Soudal-QuickStep finally came forward with 22.5km to go and lined the bunch out single file in a cross-tailwind.
Back into the tailwind along the river Garonne, the speed of the chasing bunch began to swing the balance and the gap fell under one minute.
The peloton was tightly bunched at the front as the lead-out trains assembled, so much so that Cavendish narrowly avoided sparking a crash when he bumped Jasper De Buyst (Lotto Dstny) before offering a quick apology.
Peters and Latour continued to keep the chase at bay but their effort was a flat-out two-man time trial against an unusual cooperation between the various trains. A big pull from ‘the tractor’ Tim Declercq (Soudal-QuickStep) nudged their lead under the 30-second mark before 10km to go.
A series of roundabouts and traffic islands didn’t slow the chase at all as the GC teams Jumbo-Visma and Ineos Grenadiers surged to keep their contenders safe. They had the escape duo in sight with 6km to go and Peters decided the fight wasn’t worth it and sat up, leaving Latour in a futile battle against a concerted chase and he was soon caught, too.
Jumbo-Visma could have pulled off after the safety mark of 3.6km to go but kept Vingegaard at the front until the road straightened out. Then, Alpecin-Deceuninck and the other sprint trains came out to play on a narrow run-in.
The Tour de France travels from Libourne to Limoges on the eight day of action. The route is 200.7 kilometers long – flat in the first part, lumpy in the second.
It’s the fourteenth time that a Tour de France stage goes to Limoges. The first stage winner in the town in the Haute-Vienne department was Belgian André Rosseel in 1952, while Marcel Kittel won the last stage. The German outsprinted Bryan Coquard and Peter Sagan in 2016.
A flat first part bids welcome to the riders this time before more lumpy terrain is on the menu in the final 75 kilometres. Three climbs stand out, Côte de Champs-Romain (2.8 kilometers at 5.2%), Côte de Masmont (1.3 kilometers at 5.5%) and Côte de Condat-sur-Vienne (1.2 kilometers at 5.4%). The latter two are situated inside the final 16 kilometres, the Condat-sur-Vienne even inside the last 10.
The last kilometer holds something extra up its sleeve – a 3.1% gradient, to be precise.
Stage 7 result:
- Jasper Philipsen (BEL, Alpecin-Deceuninck) 3hr 46’28”
- Mark Cavendish (GBR, Astana Qazaqstan Team) +0″
- Biniam Girmay (ERI, Intermarché – Circus – Wanty) +0″
- Luca Mozzato (ITA, Team Arkéa Samsic) +0″
- Dylan Groenewegen (NED, Team Jayco AlUla) +0″
- Jordi Meeus (BEL, BORA – hansgrohe) +0″
- Phil Bauhaus (GER, Bahrain – Victorious) +0″
- Bryan Coquard (FRA, Cofidis) +0″
- Alexander Kristoff (NOR, Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) +0″
- Mads Pedersen (DEN, Lidl – Trek) +0″
- Jonas Vingegaard (DEN, Jumbo-Visma) 29h 57’12”
- Tadej Pogacar (SLO, UAE Team Emirates) +25″
- Jai Hindley (AUS, Bora-Hansgrohe) +1:34″
- Simon Yates (GBR, Team Jayco AlUla) +3:14″
- Carlos Rodriguez Cano (ESP, Ineos Grenadiers) +3:30″
- Adam Yates (GBR, UAE Team Emirates) +3:40″
- David Gaudu (FRA, Groupama – FDJ) +4:03″
- Romain Bardet (FRA, Team dsm – firmenich) +4:43″
- Thomas Pidcock (GBR, INEOS Grenadiers) +4:43″
- Sepp Kuss (USA, Jumbo-Visma) +5:28″