Tour de France Stage 7: Dylan Groenewegen outsprints Fernando Gaviria

Laurent Pichon

A group of five riders broke early on the 181km run from Brest to Mur-de-Bretagne and when the Quick Step team of stage contender Julian Alaphilippe suddenly accelerated on a plain, the peloton split into three with 100km remaining. He has a three-second lead over Briton Geraint Thomas of Team Sky and his BMC teammate Tejay Van Gardenan.

Speed demon: Richie Porte warms up in France. "I had really good legs and when I went my legs kept coming and coming", Martin said.

"I talked to everyone", Sagan said when asked how he passed the time after finishing third in the mass sprint which, with its uphill finish, suited him.

In a tense finish, Marin held off a late push from AG2R La Mondiale's Pierre Latour to cross the line alone, just ahead of the pack as the general classification hopefuls scrapped for seconds.

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It was Martin's second Tour stage win after his first in 2013. The Dutchman was seventh going into this stage only 13 seconds behind Van Avermaet but will now be a minute behind.

There were greater losses further back, with AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet hit by problems on the short two-kilometre climb and Team Sunweb's Tom Dumoulin also distanced after suffering a mechanical problem with six kilometres left.

Dutchman Tom Dumoulin, the 2017 Giro d'Italia champion, suffered a puncture with five kilometres to go and ended the day 53 seconds behind the victor.

"Then I had to chase and that effort was fatal".

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The peloton set off amid good racing conditions for the longest stage on the race, with a finish line opposite the 800-year-old cathedral of Chartres, a UNESCO world heritage site.

"It's not the first time we have lost a rider on the Tour de France and it won't be the last time either, I guess".

The 2018 Tour de France turned east with a soporific stage, so lacking in action that it would have been welcomed by insomniacs.

A group of around 40 riders including Froome opened up a gap of over a minute, but Martin and the rest hustled back.

While this was bad news for the rider himself, his team and France's hopes of a first win since 1985, it was a boon to Bardet's rivals, as a Tour de France victor generally relies on the support of a full team.

Froome is trying to join Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.

This was the first summit finish of this Tour.

With a nervous day expected on Sunday's cobbled stage nine to Roubaix before the race even moves to the Alps, Thomas said it was too soon for anything to be decisive.

The Dutch cyclist, who rides for Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, clocked almost six hours over the 231-kilometer (143.5-mile) trek from Fougeres, home to the best-preserved and largest medieval fortress in Europe, to Chartres, site of a vast cathedral known for its stained-glass windows.

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