Matteo Trentin of Italy won Friday’s seventh stage of the Tour de France in a photo finish, after two top US hopefuls went down in the latest spills of a crash-marred edition this year.
Fellow Italian Vincenzo Nibali retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey. US rider Tejay van Garderen, a solid all-around rider with an outside shot at the title, crashed late in the stage and lost more than a minute in the title chase.
The sun finally broke through clouds that had dumped rain over riders in recent days for the 234.5km ride from Epernay, the capital of Champagne country, to the eastern city of Nancy. It was the second-longest stage of the three-week race this year.
Trentin, a cheery 24-year-old who won a stage in the Tour of Switzerland earlier this year, beat Slovakia’s Peter Sagan by what looked like no more than a centimeter or two on the finish-line photo of the final sprint. The finish was so close that the Tour’s Web site initially declared Sagan the winner.
Trentin patted Sagan on the back after crossing the line. The Cannondale star, who took home the green jersey given to the Tour’s best overall sprinter for the last two years, has finished in the top-five of every stage this year — and second three times — but has yet to win. France’s Tony Gallopin was third.
“Honestly I didn’t know that I won. I told Peter that he had beaten me on the line. Cycling is nice because anything can happen,” said Trentin, who won a stage in Lyon in his first Tour last year. “It’s a good thing that I won two times.”
Trentin dedicated the victory to his Omega Pharma Quick Step team and its star sprinter Mark Cavendish, who crashed out in Stage 1.
BMC leader van Garderen was not the only American to have a bad day. Andrew Talansky fell in the final sprint, rolling over and scuffing up his left arm and ripping his jersey on his shoulder after getting bumped by Australia’s Simon Gerrans.
However, under course rules, Talansky, the Garmin-Sharp team leader, did not lose time in the title chase because his crash happened within the last 3km. He yelled in frustration after crossing the line.
Overall, Nibali has a two-second lead over Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang and is 2 minutes, 37 seconds clear of two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador — his main rival. Talansky is eighth, 2 minutes, 5 seconds back.
With about 16km left, a Movistar team rider bumped the back wheel of van Garderen as he moved to the right in the pack. They tumbled to the asphalt. Van Garderen got rolled over by another rider’s bike.
The BMC leader got up and back to the race, but lost time to Nibali, even after several of his teammates pedaled furiously in front of him to keep him out of the wind, trying to help him catch up.
He shrugged off the damage, putting it into the long-term perspective of a three-week race that ends in Paris on July 27.
“It’s a tough blow, but the Tour is long, the race changes,” van Garderen said of the time loss, calling the crash “nothing major. So I’ll definitely be fine to start tomorrow.”