The former yellow jersey is now 11th overall after crosswinds wreaked havoc Friday afternoon.
A furious start in Millau, where the hammer was put down on the third-category Côte de Luzençon, dropped the sprinters and kick-started an insane pace that abated briefly only after 100 kilometers. Green jersey Sam Bennett was among those to lose contact, as the peloton rode at a blistering speed to make sure the fast men were distanced for good on this stage that travelled to Lavaur – a stage finish for the first time in nine years.
“I am disappointed, as I feel I let the boys down. After being dropped, we kept going and the team pulled hard and tried to get the whole group rolling, as we were focused on making it back, but we just couldn’t do it, despite an amazing effort. I wanted to win today, the legs were good, but then I got caught out again on the second climb and it was game over”, said Sam after being divested of the green jersey for nine points.
The drama continued as the Vent d’Autan picked up 30 kilometers from the finish, shattering the peloton and seeing several GC contenders being caught out the back. Julian Alaphilippe was at the right end of this split and the 28-year-old even put in a couple of turns at the front, helping the group nudge out their advantage to over a minute as the wind changed direction and began blowing from behind.
Going under the flamme rouge, Alaphilippe moved through the reduced group and opened his sprint with 150 meters to go, looking poised to take a podium finish, only for his chances to be scuppered after a touch of elbows as Wout Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) sailed to victory. With several GC guys caught out in the crosswinds, which shuffled the deck during Friday’s lively stage 7, and tumbled out of the top 10 overall, Julian made a significant jump in the rankings, up to 11th, ahead of the first mountainous weekend.
“The start of the stage was very nervous and we rode à bloc. I just remained attentive at all times and always close to the front of the group, aware that things could change in a second. When the race split, I was there and in the end I tried to go for a good result, but it turned out it wasn’t possible as I unclipped with the line in sight. It’s nice that we could get something out this difficult stage ahead of the climbs that await us in the coming days”, the Frenchman explained at the finish in Lavaur.
Photo credit: ©Michael Steele / Getty Images