Tour de France takes trip into ‘the unknown’

Dan Martin kept his powder dry on yesterday’s flat stage seven of the Tour de France, the Irishman crossing the line as part of the main bunch thus losing no time to his main rivals for the yellow jersey.

The 213-kilometre stage from Troyes to Nuits Saint Georges was won in a photo finish by Marcel Kittel of QuickStep Cycling who has now claimed a hat-trick of wins this week.

The German just edged Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) with Michael Matthews (Team Giant Sunweb) rounding out the stage podium.

Martin remains fourth overall at 25 seconds behind race leader Chris Froome with the latter’s teammate Geraint Thomas second at 12 seconds.

Sandwiching him and Martin is Fabio Aru (Astana) at 14 seconds but the General Classification is set for a big shake-up this weekend according to the man in fifth, Richie Porte (BMC Racing).

“Today will be a bit of an unknown,” he said.

“It’s kind of a finish that we don’t normally do in the Tour de France, a 12km climb and then a bit of a plateau to the finish so I’m not sure what’s going to happen there so it should be interesting.

“Tomorrow we have climb after climb and I think it’s going to be a hard weekend for everyone.”

Porte will be hoping Irishman Nicolas Roche will be firing on all cylinders this weekend as he will have a key domestique role in shepherding the Tasmanian on the steep climbs.

Today’s stage features a summit finish after three categorised climbs while tomorrow is even more brutal with seven categorised climbs, two of which are HC-ranked ascents.

Roche was 38th across the line today in the same time as Kittel and he is a very respectable 21st overall at 2:14.

Meanwhile the Irish-registered Aqua Blue Sport cycling team are one stage away from winning a major professional race with Stefan Denifl in the race leader’s yellow jersey at the Tour of Austria (2.1).

The 29-year took the lead on Thursday’s fourth stage when he was second across the line in the 83-kilometre race but that was enough for him to seize yellow by 41 seconds from Spaniard Delio Fernandez (Delko Marseille Provence KTM).

And Denifl retained the jersey yesterday, though he did concede four seconds going into today’s final stage.

It’s a brilliant result for the team and it comes just weeks after Larry Warbasse took their first UCI win when he claimed a marvellous solo victory at the Tour de Suisse (2.UWT).

That was quickly followed by the same rider winning the US road race title, one of the most hard-fought national titles in the world.

Today’s 203-kilometre final stage in Austria features three categorised climbs and Denifl will need to have his team in flying form to help him defend the jersey.


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