Start location: Mont-de-Marsan
Finish location: Bordeaux
Start time: 13:15 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:07 CEST
This year’s is an unusually hard start to the Tour de France, with the Pyrenees already finished before even the second weekend, not to mention all the climbing done in the Basque Country. So it will come as some relief to the riders to see that the profile of stage seven is about as flat as anyone pining for an easier day could have hoped for.
From Mont-de-Marsan (a small town in Landes that Eddy Merckx’s great adversary Luis Ocaña once called a home), the riders will head northwards away from the Pyrenees and through plains and forests of Nouvelle-Aquitaine for a finish in Bordeaux. Known as the Pearl of the Aquitaine, Bordeaux is among the most popular tourist destinations in France, and its old town has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Especially impressive is its ‘Port of the Moon’ harbour, so-called because of its crescent shape, and which was the heart of its booming maritime trade — the most famous product being wine, which is considered by many to be the best in the world, and which was very popular in England during the Middle Ages when the English ruled Aquitaine. After such a relaxed day in the saddle, and with another relatively straightforward day to come tomorrow before a return to the mountains, maybe the riders will treat themselves to an extra glass or two over dinner.
Bordeaux has had a long love affair with the Tour, having featured in the first ever edition in 1903, and has hosted another 80 stage finishes since then. But this will be the Tour’s first visit for an unusually long absence of thirteen years, after the town cooled on the race and were unwilling to make the considerable spending commitments required. Only now, with the enthusiastic Green mayor Pierre Hurmic welcoming it back, will the residents of Bordeaux once again get to witness the carnival come to town.
Stage seven profile sourced via ASO
Most of the Bordeaux stage finishes have ended in bunch sprints, and the list of former winners here read like a roll call of the all-time sprinters, with Erik Zabel, Freddy Maertens and André Darrigade all having triumphed here. In 2010, the greatest of them all, Mark Cavendish, was the victor, meaning he’ll be one of the few riders in the peloton today with experience of racing on these roads.
The wide, long boulevards that characterise the town (and which were the inspiration for Baron Haussman and his radical redesign of Paris in the nineteenth century) are very conducive for straightforward sprinting, so no local knowledge of particular twists and bends will be especially advantageous in determining the winner of the sprint finish. And make no mistake, with just the solitary and very modest Côte de Béguey to be climbed, a bunch sprint is all but guaranteed.
It will be a welcome return to the flatlands for the sprinters today after they have hauled themselves over the mountains of stages five and six. For the GC men, it should be a recovery day too, it will just be about avoiding crashes and crossing the finish line safely. There's been two real sprint opportunities in this year's Tour de France so far and in both of which Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has taken the top spot. Philipsen will be looking to do the same again and further add to his win tally; he'll have lead-out man supreme Mathieu van der Poel to help him do so, too.
One man dreaming of it being his day to take glory will be Mark Cavendish of Astana-Qazaqstan team. The Manx rider is searching for his record-breaking 35th Tour stage win and hasn't been too far off the pace so far, finishing fifth and sixth in the last two sprint stages respectively. Another impressively consistent finisher in recent sprint stages has been Bahrain-Victorious' Phil Bauhaus – he's been second and third so far in this race. Could the day be the day he converts those podium finishes into victories?
Lotto-Dstny's Caleb Ewan has had an impressive start to this Tour de France too, finishing a close second place to Philipsen on stage four in that hectic sprint to Nogaro. Someone who suffered a much worse fate on that same stage to Nogaro was Fabio Jakobsen of Soudal-Quick Step. The Dutch rider crashed hard inside of the final kilometre and has been nursing his injuries ever since. Jakobsen could be a contender today, but it will depend on how he has recovered from his crash a few days ago.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) could also give the sprint a shot today – the Belgian rider has been playing super-domestique in the mountains for the last two stages but has proven he can perform on almost every type of terrain. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Alula) and Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) are also riders to watch today, as are Bryan Coquard of Cofidis and Biniam Girmay of Intermarché-Circus-Wanty. Sam Welsford (Team DSM) and Jordi Meeus (BORA-Hansgrohe) are two outside bets.
We can't see anyone getting past Jasper Philipsen once again today, and are betting on him for his third victory of the race. With MVDP leading him out, the Alpecin-Deceunick duo are virtually unstoppable.