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Sports Dylan Groenewegen sprints to victory in Stage 7 of Tour de France

Dylan Groenewegen celebrates as he crosses the finish line to win the seventh stage of the Tour de France in Chalon sur Saone on July 12, 2019.

Christophe Ena/The Associated Press

Dylan Groenewegen won the longest stage of the Tour de France in a sprint as Giulio Ciccone kept the yellow jersey on Friday.

The Dutch sprinter edged Australian rival Caleb Ewan and former world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia to claim his fourth career stage win of the Tour.

Squeezed between the crossing of the Vosges and Massif Central mountains, the 230-kilometre trek took the peloton from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône in central-east France.

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A Tour rookie, Ciccone seized the yellow jersey on Thursday following a long breakaway during the race’s first mountain stage.

After a final technical hairpin bend, Stage 7 featured a 1.6-km path to the finish that gave pure sprinters a perfect opportunity to shine.

Ottawa’s Michael Woods remained in ninth place over all after finishing 27th in Friday’s stage. Hugo Houle of of Sainte-Perpétue, Que., moved up five spots to 108th over all after finishing 55th in Stage 7.

Italian sprinter Elia Viviani was led out by his teammates, but lacked speed as he dropped out of contention. It was then a tight battle between Groenewegen and Ewan, with the former winning by just a few centimetres.

Victory felt sweeter for Groenewegen, after he was caught in a crash near the finish on the Tour’s opening day in Belgium last week.

After a day of hardship in the Vosges that culminated with the brutal ascent to the Planches des Belles Filles, most of the riders needed a break and the peloton rode at a pedestrian pace. On the outskirts of the eastern city of Belfort, nobody moved when breakaway specialists Yoann Offredo and Stéphane Rossetto made a move.

On the Tour’s longest day, some riders were caught napping. American Tejay van Garderen and Mike Teunissen, the Dutch rider who wore the yellow jersey earlier, both hit the tarmac soon after the start, close to a road divider. Van Garderen was attended by three of his teammates and eventually got back on his bike, his face bloodied and his jersey ripped. Nicolas Roche soldiered on, too, after he fell onto his machine on a long section of flat road.

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Offredo and Rossetto could not make the most of the peloton’s apathy, though, failing to build a big enough gap to prevent sprinters’ teams from reining them in about 12 km from the finish.

As the pace sped up in the final kilometres, there were splits in the main pack, with overall contenders Nairo Quintana and Dan Martin getting dropped. It was nothing more than a scare as the duo easily joined up with the favourites well before the final sprint.

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