Matteo Trentin wins Stage 7 of Tour de France
Vincenzo Nibali retains yellow jersey
Matteo Trentin of Italy won Friday's seventh stage of the Tour de France in a photo finish, after two top American 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. U.S. 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 234.5 kilometre (146 mile) 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 centimetre or two on the finish-line photo of the final sprint. The finish was so close that the Tour's website 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-5 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.
But under course rules, Talansky, the Garmin-Sharp team leader, didn't lose time in the title chase because his crash happened within the last three kilometres. He yelled in frustration after crossing the line.
"He's ok... it's not something that's going to affect him much," Garmin-Sharp team Jonathan Vaughters said of Talansky on French TV. "I don't know if it was Gerrans' fault, but he's angry. That's 100-per cent sure."
Overall, Nibali has a two-second lead over Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang and is two minutes, 37 seconds clear of two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador — his main rival. Talansky is eighth, 2 minutes, 5 seconds back.
With about 16 kilometres 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."
More significant for the BMC leader in the long-term, however, may be the withdrawal of Colombia's John Darwin Atapuma, a good climber whom the team was grooming to help van Garderen. The race medical report said Atapuma was taken to a hospital for treatment of a broken femur just above the knee.
"This is definitely not a good day for the team," said van Garderen. "To lose him ... I really just hope he's ok, I hear he banged his knee pretty hard."
Overall van Garderen trails 3 minutes, 14 behind Nibali, in 18th place, after starting the stage only 2:11 adrift.
"There have really been a lot of crashes this year, in the final sprints," Nibali said. "We all knew that Sagan wanted a win today ... The end of the stage was very hard."
The biggest crash casualty this year was defending champion Chris Froome, who dropped out of the race with an injured wrist in Stage 5.
Also falling in the finish-line crash, Swiss rider Mathias Frank, the leader of the IAM Cycling team, was undergoing a medical scan at hospital for a severely injured hip, the race medical report said. In an earlier crash, Dutch rider Stef Clement dropped out of the race and was taken to hospital after a blow to the head.
In a possible preview of race action to come, Contador led a small attack along a low-grade climb with about 6-kilometres left, but he couldn't shake Nibali. The Italian says he expects the Spanish two-time champ to attack in the mountains ahead starting this weekend, culminating with a tough uphill finish on Monday.
A shakeout among title contenders could be ahead in Saturday's eighth stage, which winds through medium-height mountains along a 161-kilometre (100-mile) run from Tomblaine to Gerardmer-La Mauselaine ski resort.