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After a great lead-out by Lotto Soudal, Greipel finally got his stage win in the Tour of Britain when he held Viviani off in a very close photo finish on stage 7; Boasson Hagen was fifth and defended the lead

Photo: Sirotti

ANDRÉ GREIPEL

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EDVALD BOASSON HAGEN

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ELIA VIVIANI

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LOTTO SOUDAL

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NTT PRO CYCLING TEAM

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SONDRE HOLST ENGER

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TOUR OF BRITAIN

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12.09.2015 @ 17:43 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

After several near-misses, André Greipel (Lotto Soudal) finally got a stage win in the Tour of Britain when he came out on top in an extremely close bunch sprint on stage 7 of the race. Having been given the perfect lead-out by his team, he held off a late comeback from Elia Viviani (Sky) by the tiniest of margins while Edvald Boasson Hagen (MTN-Qhubeka) finished fifth and defended the overall lead.

 

André Greiple was widely tipped to win lots of stages in the Tour of Britain. He showed great condition by winning the Vattenfall Cyclassics and Lotto Soudal had done nothing to hide that the British race was important for them.

 

However, in the first stages, the German has been riding in service of teammate Jens Debusschere whom he has wanted to pay back his teammate for much hard work. Due to unexpected circumstances, he still had to slot into the sprint role twice but has been forced to settle for two podium places.

 

Yesterday Debusschere spent a lot of energy in a breakaway so he made it clear that today it would be all about Greipel. That turned out to be a good decision as a great lead-out ended with another victory for the German in a very close sprint.

 

Madison Genesis had been chasing hard to catch the early break before the final KOM sprint 19km from the finish and they made it. Hence, it was all back together after the sprint had been decided and as the pace went down, Zdenek Stybar (Etixx-QuickStep) launched a strong attack.

 

Lotto Soudal reacted immediately as they started to chase hard with Sean De Bie but the Czech still managed to open a 10-second advantage as he entered the final 15km. Many riders saw the opportunity to try to jump across to Stybar as a Great Britain rider and Stefan Küng (BMC) were among the riders to give it a try.

 

However, they had no luck and instead Lotto Soudal went back to work with De Bie. As Stybar was a threat to Rasmus Guldhammer’s GC, Rasmus Quaade also took some huge turns for Cult and this was enough to bring the Czech back with 11km to go.

 

Robert Partridge (NFTO) launched an immediate counterattack and he quickly managed to put 15 seconds into the peloton which was still led by De Bie. However, IAM also came to the fore with Stef Clement and the combination of those two riders neutralized the move with 9km to go.

 

De Bie and Clement continued to ride on the front until the former swung off with 4km to go. The latter continued for another 500m until Lotto Soudal took complete control with Pim Ligthart leading Marcel Sieberg, Jens Debusscher and André Greipel.

 

Peter Kennaugh came through to take a big turn for Sky until he swung off with 2.5km to go. Ligthart was back on the front but the Lotto riders were passed by the Sky train of Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Andrew Fenn and Elia Viviani.

 

Swift took over with 1.5km to go while the Lotto Soudal trio of Sieberg, Debusschere and Greipel had latched onto Viviani’s wheel. Just after the flamme rouge, Sieberg accelerated to hit the front and it was the Lotto trio who was first through the final turn.

 

Vivani had latched onto Greipel’s wheel as Etixx-QuickStep tried to pass the Lotto train. However, Debusschere managed to hold them off and Greipel started his sprint from the perfect position. Viviani moved up next to him and it came down to an extremely close photo finish where no one was able to call the winner. In the end, Greipel was given the victory while Sondre Holst Enger (IAM) took third.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen could only manage 5th in the sprint but that was enough to defend his 13-second lead over Wout Poels (Sky). He now just needs to get safely through the final stage which is a short criterium in London that is expected to be decided in a bunch sprint.

 

A flat stage

After yesterday’s very hard stage, the terrain was significantly easier in stage 7 which brought the riders over a mammoth 227.1km from Fakenham to Ipswich. The stage only included three very small category 3 climbs and was almost completely flat, meaning that a bunch sprint was expected.

 

Rain had been forecasted for the stage but it was dry when the riders gathered for the start. Two riders were absent as Taylor Phinney (BMC) was suffering from fatigue and Roger Kluge (IAM) also decided to abandon.

 

Lots of punctures

Race leader Boasson Hagen and Ruben Fernandez (Movistar) both suffered mechanicals in the neutral zone but they were back in the peloton by the time they got to the real start.

 

Three riders attacked straight from the gun but they were quickly brought back. Meanwhile, the many punctures continued as Sebastian Langeveld (Cannondale-Garmin), Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka) and Koen Bouwman (LottoNL) both had to stop.

 

Four riders get clear

There were lots of attacks in the early part of the race but things were still together at the 12km mark. Finally, the elastic snapped when Alistair Slater (An Post), Tom Stewart (Madison), Jonathan McEvoy (NFTO) and Chris Opie (One Pro) got an advantage of more than a minute.

 

However, the peloton was not content with the situation and the gap stayed around the one-minute mark while attacks rained from the peloton. The group managed to stay clear to the top of the first climb where Opie beat Stewart, McEvoy and Slater in the KOM sprint but moments later it all came back together.

 

A new break is formed

Matteo Trentin, Karol Domagalski, Michael Mørkøv, Rasmus Guldhammer, Matt Holmes and Robert Kiserlovski all punctured while the attacking continued. The peloton split in two but it came back together.

 

That’s when four riders managed to escape after more than an hour of fast riding. Alex Dowsett (Movistar), Graham Briggs (JLT), Bram Tankink (LottoNL) and Gabriel Cullaigh (Great Britain) took off but the peloton refused to let them go.

 

Lotto Soudal take control

Tankink was too close on GC so he was persuaded to sit up and this allowed the gap to grow quickly. It was soon up to seven minutes while the many punctures still marred the peloton.

 

The gap went out to 8.40 before Lotto Soudal took control of the peloton with Sean De Bie and Fredrik Frison. They slowly brought the gap down and it was 6.45 at the 104km mark.

 

IAM start to chase

With 90km to go, it had been brought down to 4.45 and there was no stress as Boasson Hagen rejoined the peloton after a rear wheel puncture. Moments later, Dowsett led Briggs and Cullaigh across the line in the first intermediate sprint.

 

The gap was down to 4 minutes as they entered the final 80km. It was still Frison and De Bie doing all the work but five kilometres later they got some welcome assistance as Clement Chevrier and Stef Clement started to work for IAM.

 

A fierce battle for KOM points

At that point, the gap had gone out to 4.25 but the added firepower had an effect. With 65km to go, the gap was 3.50 and it was down to just 2.50 ten kilometres later.

 

Briggs led Dowsett and Cullaigh over the line in the second intermediate sprint and Dowsett led Briggs and Cullaign across the line in the second KOM sprint. Further back, it was a big battle between NFTO and Madison Genesis for the final point as they both did a full lead-out. Open managed to pip Peter Williams on the line, meaning that he defended his teammate Stewart’s KOM lead.

 

Big crash

The action had brought the gap down to 2.30 as they entered the final 50km. That’s when bad luck struck for Dowsett as he was the next rider to suffer a puncture but he managed to rejoin the peloton.

 

With 47km to go, a big crash in the peloton involved Tao Geogeghan-Hart (Great Britain),Opie Dylan Teuns and Floris Gerts (both BMC) and briefly split the peloton. However, there was no big stress as Clement, Chevrier, Frison and De Bie had gone back into steady chase mode. Unfortunately, the two BMC riders were forced to abandon. Dowsett led Briggs and Cullaigh across the line in the final sprint

 

Madison Genesis hit the front

Madison Genesis decided that they wanted to try to bring the break back before the final KOM sprint and so they took over the pace-setting with 43km to go. Three kilometres later they had brought the gap down to 1.40.

 

With 30km to go, the gap was down to 1.10 and it was four riders from Madison Genesis that traded pulls on the front. They had it down to less than a minute just two kilometres later.

 

Dowsett sits up

Lotto Soudal lent them a hand with Frison and that had a big effect. The gap was down to 15 seconds wih 22km to go.

 

As the break was within sight of the peloton, Cullaigh launched an attack and only Briggs wanted to follow. Dowsett sat up and waited for the peloton which was led by three riders from Madison Genesis.

 

With 20km to go, the gap was still 10 seconds. Cullaigh tried to launch a long sprint to take the KOM win but the attackers were passed by the sprinting field from which Williams beat his teammate Harper and

Stewart to secure the win in the KOM classification. Moments later, Stybar attacked but it was Greipel who took the win.

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