CHALON-SUR-SAONE, France — Less than a week ago in Brussels, Dylan Groenewegen sat dejected in the middle of the road, his body language oozing disappointment as the Tour de France doctor treated him.
One of the fastest sprinters in the world and on one of the most powerful teams, the Dutch sprinter was expected to win the opening stage and seize the yellow jersey. Instead, he was caught in a crash and forced to watch his leadout man at Jumbo-Visma, Mike Teunissen, claim all the honors.
To add to his torment, Teunissen and Groenewegen are Tour roommates, meaning he had to spend the night with the yellow jersey in his room.
Banged up and demoralized, Groenewegen took a few days to recover, but he finally put his poor Tour start to bed Friday with the tightest of wins in the longest stage of the race.
“It was not the start I wanted,” Groenewegen said. “Over the last days, I focused on today. My team did a really good job. The tactics was to go full gas, and I took the win.”
Groenewegen edged Australian rival Caleb Ewan and former world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia to claim his fourth career stage win at the Tour.
After a final technical hairpin bend, the 230-kilometer (143-mile) stage featured a 1.6-kilometer (one-mile) path to the finish that gave sprinters an opportunity to shine. Italian Elia Viviani was led out by his teammates but lacked speed and dropped out of contention. It was then a tight battle between Groenewegen and Ewan, with the former averaging 74.1 kph (46 mph) to win by a few centimeters.
Before that intense finale, riders used Stage 7 to recover from Thursday’s brutal ride.
“A long, slow day on the saddle,” defending champion Geraint Thomas said. “Everything was starting to ache by the end.”
There was no significant movement in the overall standings. Tour rookie Giulio Ciccone kept the yellow jersey with a six-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe. Among the favorites, Thomas remained in the best shape, 49 seconds off the pace.
Squeezed between the crossing of the Vosges and Massif Central mountains, the stage took the peloton from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saone. After a day of hardship in the Vosges that culminated with a brutal ascent to the Planches des Belles Filles, the peloton rode at a pedestrian pace, and nobody responded in the outskirts of Belfort when breakaway specialists Yoann Offredo and Stephane Rossetto made a move.
Offredo and Rossetto could not make the most of the peloton’s apathy. They were reined in about 12 kilometers (seven miles) from the finish.
On the Tour’s longest day, some riders were caught napping. American Tejay van Garderen and Teunissen hit the tarmac soon after the start, close to a road divider. The American was helped by three of his teammates and eventually got back on his bike, his face bloodied and his jersey ripped.
The American was set to have X-rays. His team will decide Saturday whether he can continue.
“His main complaint right now is the thumb,” team doctor Kevin Sprouse said. “He’s got some bruising and swelling and just a lot of pain gripping. He may need a stitch or two in the chin.”