Tour de France sets off on longest stage of 2019 route
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Sprinters are expected to take advantage of the relatively flat terrain of Friday's stage 7, but endurance is the name of game, with the 230-km route from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône making it the longest in this year’s Tour de France.
Riders had a mere 18 hours recovery time from the brutal mountain climb on Thursday before setting off from Belfort.
The departure town is the home of the lion of Belfort, an enormous stone sculpture that inspired the bicycle and carmaker Peugeot’s symbol.
The race is mainly flat, but the main challenge will be the cross winds – as proved early in the stage when a group of riders, several with the American-registered team Education First, caused a pile-up shortly after the start.
There were no serious injuries, but it won’t help EF gain time on their rival US team Trek-Segafredo whose Italian rider Giulio Ciccone is wearing the leader's yellow jersey today.
Two riders, Stephane Rosetto and Yoann Offredo, made a daring breakaway within the first 50 kilometres but they will be hard pressed to extend the gap with the likes of accomplished sprinters Peter Sagan of Slovakia and Italy's Elia Viviana biding their time in the main pack.
It's early days yet in the 21-stage race but Friday's stage will demonstrate how outfits are working together as teams, as they try to protect their strongest riders to bring them to the fore during the later stages.
Already in Thursday's stage 6, defending Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas relied on his teammate Egan Bernal of Colombia to help him up the notorious Planche des Belles Filles.
“Steep climbs are not really my cup of tea," explained Thomas to reporters. "I was expecting others – Nairo Quintana, Egan, Richie Porte, Adam Yates - to jump up there. It was a decent day in the end."