July 2 was a bittersweet day for Slovenia as Matej Mohoric won Stage 7 of the Tour de France and took the polka dot jersey while compatriot Primoz Roglic lost almost four minutes to his GC rivals. Mohoric was part of a stellar break that also included the yellow jersey Mathieu van der Poel on the longest day of the Tour in 21 years.
On this Tour de France that keeps serving up scripts to savour, Mathieu van der Poel defended his yellow jersey with grit and determination after battling into a large breakaway alongside his old friend Wout van Aert, the green jersey Mark Cavendish, and the 2015 champion Vincenzo Nibali, as defending champion Tadej Pogacar found his UAE Team Emirates squad under the cosh from the get-go during the longest stage of the race.
If Pogacar weathered the storm, the same could not be said about his fellow Slovenian star Primoz Roglic, who emerged from the 249 km schlep from Vierzon to Le Creusot as the big loser after being dropped on the penultimate climb within the final 20km.
An isolated Roglic eventually crossed the line over nine minutes down on his compatriot Mohoric, who took maximum points overall five climbs before soloing to an emotional win that saw the Bahrain-Victorious rider complete a set of stage wins on all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.
Milan-Sanremo winner Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) took second place at 1’20” before Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) led home a select group that also included van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) and Van Aert (Jumbo-Visma).
The surviving remnants of the original 29-man break came over the line in drips and drabs before world champion Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) led the main field of favourites home 5’15” down after a late move by Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) was snuffed out just metres before the line.
Pogacar, the white jersey, was part of this main pack but it was the best part of four minutes before compatriot Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) trundled over the line after the 31-year-old was dropped on the double-digit ramps of the Signal d’Uchon climb on its first appearance in the race. It was on this uphill test, with 19km to go, where Mohoric made his decisive move, riding clear of Belgians Stuyven and Brent Van Moer (Lotto Soudal) in pursuit of glory.
Slovenian national champion Mohoric is now 3’01” off the race summit and ahead of compatriot Pogacar, who slipped to fifth place at 3’43”. Another big winner in the GC battle was the Italian veteran Nibali, an active figure in the break before fading in the finale, who is up to sixth place at 4’12”.
It was Mohoric who went clear with Van Moer, described by teammate Thomas De Gendt as the new Thomas De Gendt, on the first climb some 90km from the finish. Having crashed out of the Giro spectacularly, the Slovenian champion was clearly on a mission as he went on to take maximum points over all five of the climbs ahead of the finish.
After thwarted attacks from Nibali and Gilbert, Belgian duo Campenaerts and Stuyven joined the leaders to create a quartet out in front with 50km remaining – but Mohoric slowly wore down his companions before shedding the last, Stuyven, on the steep final kilometre of the Signal d’Uchon.
As Mohoric rode towards the final piece of his Grand Tour jigsaw, the GC battle intensified behind with Roglic being tailed off the main pack moments before Carapaz put in a stinging attack near the summit of the penultimate climb.
Carapaz looked to be making some headway but the Ecuadorian livewire was swept up just ahead of the line as Alaphilippe led home the main field after a gruelling day in the saddle.
The first of two Alpine tests take place on Saturday with the 151km Stage 8 from Oyonnax to Le Grand-Bornand, where Alaphilippe secured his first-ever Tour stage win in 2018. Three first-category climbs will be a severe test for the favourites ahead of a downhill finish where van der Poel is likely to surrender the yellow jersey he took after his Stage 2 victory at Mur-de-Bretagne.
The Tour de France race can be live-streamed in India on Eurosport as it joined hands with the Global Cycling Network to broadcast the entire race. Viewers can alternatively use VPNs to live stream the race on other streaming platforms and online network TVs.