Breakaway may be let off the leash as route starts to rise
Cummings and De Gendt could battle it out for stage win
Dole - Station des Rousses
Eurosport 1/ITV4, 11.25am Saturday
Another sprint finish, another win for Marcel Kittel.
That was how stage seven of the Tour de France predictably played out yesterday, although the German didn’t win with the same authority as he had done on stages two and six, touching off Edvald Boasson Hagen by a tiny margin in a photo finish.
Kittel now leads the points classification by 15 points from previous jersey-wearer Arnaud Demare.
As of yet a breakaway hasn’t been given a chance to get away but as the race heads back into the mountains this weekend, we could see the escapees let off the leash.
With Sunday's hellish stage seeing the peloton climb 4,600m across seven categorised climb – three of which are classed as the hardest hors categorie – this 187.5km test from Dole to Station des Rousses could offer a perfect opportunity for the GC teams to preserve their legs and allow the break to fight it out for the stage win.
A lot will depend on the make-up of the riders who fancy going it alone, but there are enough quality riders who are already way off the general classification radar to be given some rope by the peloton.
With Mark Cavendish’s well-documented withdrawal after stage four, Team Dimension Data have had to refocus their goals for the remainder of the Tour.
However, that is unlikely to affect the ambitions of their other Brit, Steve Cummings, who was always going to hunt a stage of this ilk at some point and has already earmarked this as a potential target.
Cummings, who returned from a shoulder injury to win both the British road and time-trial championships a fortnight ago, has taken his customary position at the back of the peloton for much of the opening week and as such is 25mins 58sec adrift of race leader Chris Froome.
It is a year to the day since Cummings, who has won a stage at each of the last two tours, triumphed in Lac de Payolle on a stage which featured a finale not too dissimilar to that which the riders face today.
Another stage winner lurking dangerously near the bottom of the general classification is Lotto Soudal’s Thomas de Gendt.
Unlike Cummings, De Gendt has already been extremely active in breakaways over the first seven stages and took a lumpy stage at this year’s Criterium du Dauphine.
The Belgian is no stranger to Tour success too, having won last year’s truncated stage up to Mont Ventoux.
He lies more than 26 minutes back on the standings and is another who could be given some leeway by the peloton.
1pt e-w 10-1 Paddy Power
T De Gendt
1pt e-w 25-1 Paddy Power