Victory for Sagan saw him extend his lead in the green jersey competition to 94 points over German national champion Greipel, with British champion Cavendish another 11 points in arrears.
Montpellier - Albi
Tour de France - 5 July 2013
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No changes at the top, with Daryl Impey retaining his three-second lead over Boasson Hagen. The likes of Chris Froome and Alberto Contador all finished safely in the peloton to keep in the frame ahead of the Pyrenees this weekend.
Bennati took third place ahead of fellow Italian Cimolai and Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Victory for Peter Sagan, with John Degenkolb in second and Daniele Bennati third.
Sagan and Degenkolb go shoulder to shoulder - but it's Sagan who finally gets his win!
Under the banner for the pack, with Degenkolb and also Gilbert oming forward. Argos Shimano have two men to lead out Degenkolb here, with Sagan in his wheel...
Sylvain Chavanel is here for OPQS alongside the white jersey Michal Kwiatkowski - what a story that would be...
It's over for the three escapees as Cannondale plough past. They have four men left, including Sagan.
There's a split near the front of the pack as Cannondale ride off and then almost come a cropper at a roundabout. The leading trio benefited from that, but they are now almost caught.
Lampre are fairly active near the front - so prehaps Davide Cimolai and/or Roberto Ferrari are here in the main pack?
The riders are approaching the beautiful city of Albi, famed for its large red cathedral - the biggest brick-bult religious building in the world. Less than 10 seconds now.
GreenEdge have a couple of men near the front in the mix with the Cannondale troup. The gap is down to 20 seconds.
Our leading trio have just 25 seconds over the Cannondale-led pack, so their time out on the front will come to an end soon. Back in the grupetto, Cavendish and Greg Henderson chat away, the pressure now off.
The Cavendish/Greipel/Kittel group is now 11 minutes down and clearly thinking about tomorrow's mountains.
Bakelants, Oroz and Gautier are combining well to maintain their lead - but it's neither getting bigger or smaller, which suggests some kind of stalemate which will be ended as soon as Cannondale really pull the trigger.
Of course, while Peter Sagan is the favourite to win today, he is not a shoo-in. The Cannondale rider has three second-places to his name so far, but he's been pushing hard today on the front with his team-mates. Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen has had a free ride and he'll be likely to figure in the sprint at Albi. There's also Argos Shimano's John Degenkolb, plus even Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge, who could feature. Gerro has beaten Sagan already in this Tour, remember...
Cannondale still leading the chase on the three escapees, who have 45 seconds over the pack. Inidentally, the second group containing the other main sprinters is now almost seven minutes back after taking their feet off the gas.
Jan Bakelants crosses the summit in pole position to take the solitary point over the top. Blel Kadri will be in polka dots tonight - his lead is secure after that early rally.
The riders are onto the last climb of the day, the Cat.4 Cote de Teillet - 2.6km at 5%.
The chasing group may have thrown in the towel, but the job is not yet done for Cannondale, who still need to reel in these three escapees. They have 35 seconds at the moment. This is Gautier's third break attempt of the Tour so far, and Bakelants' second. The first, in stage two, he held on for the win - ahead of Peter Sagan...
The pace in the chasing group has really come down - they have certainly given up, and that looks like the sensible option, especially with the Pyrenees on the horizon tomorrow. Even if they were to push it right to the end, they wouldn't have got back on, so it was just a waste of energy. Mark Cavendish looks pretty upset and he's getting some hugs from his team-mates. It was just not to be.
The Lotto-Belisol riders in the chasing group are reloading up with water bottles. Their task is a sorry one - they're not 3:17 down on the leading trio, who are 50 seconds ahead of the peloton, so the gap is getting bigger. In fact, it looks like that they have given up the chase.
Bakelants, Oroz and Gautier have 1:02 over the peloton and 2:58 over the Greipel/Cavendish/Kittel chasing group. Ah, here they are - Orica-GreenEdge have sent a man onto the front.
The three leaders now have one minute over the peloton which puts Jan Bakelants into the virtual yellow jersey. The Belgian is just 55 seconds down on GC and could ride back into the race lead if this move is not gobbled up. Expect GreenEdge to start lending Cannondale a hand on the front soon...
The Greipel/Cavendish group is still two minutes down on the main pack after being dropped on the previous climb. Lotto-Belisol are doing the lion's share of the chasing, with OPQS taking a back seat it seems. Marcel Kittel of Argos Shimano is also in the second group. His team is helping Lotto with the pace.
We're onto the third climb of the day, the Cat.3 Cote de la Quintaine - 6.5km at 4%. The three escapees have 38 seconds over the peloton, which is being led by Cannondale. The yellow jersey, Daryl Impey, is safely riding in the main pack with his GreenEdge team-mates just behind the troops in green of Sagan.
The escapees have come together to form a group of three. They have 22 seconds over the peloton, which has Cannondale on the front once again. The Cavendish/Greipel group is a further 2:10 back.
Jan Bakelants (RadioShack), winner of stage two, has ridden off the front. He has two riders in pursuit - Cyril Gautier (Europcar) and Juan Jose Oroz of Euskaltel.
Right after the sprint, Cannondale take their feet off the gas to allow GreenEdge through. It will be interesting to see if the pace slows enough to allow the chasing Greipel/Cavendish group back into the race.
Sagan picks up maximum points at the intermediate sprint ahead of a Vacansoleil rider, perhaps Danny van Poppel. That increases his tally to 179 points - 49 points clear of Andre Greipel. (It was Juan Antonio Flecha who took second place over the sprint).
John Degenkolb is one of a few Argos Shimano riders who are in this first group - so he will do his best to play a part in the intermediate sprint, coming right up, and the finish.
French climber Brice Feillu is having a hard day. The Sojasun rider needs medical attention off the back of the second peloton. As for Thomas Voeckler, the French favourite is also in the second Greipel/Cavendish group after. This might work in Voeckler's favour because the Europcar veteran could find himself freed up to attack in the Pyrenees....
Brian Vanborg is the only Cannondale rider not in the leading pack - with the exception of Ted King, who was disqualified from the race after Tuesday's team time trial in Nice. So that's seven men in green dictating the pace, with the gap still 2:30 in their favour.
As expected, Lotto and OPQS are combining on the front to chase down the main pack. They have Argos Shimano there too - so all Sagan's sprint rivals (Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel) have been shed. Extraordinary riding from Cannondale. The gap is still 2:35 so it's not really coming down and it will be hard, very hard, for them to bring this back together today.
The two chasing groups have come together so Cavedish and Greipel have been reunited. Having Lotto and Quick Step collaborating will certainly help their cause - although Cannondale are still driving this one fast and hard. The gap is 2:45 with that intermediate sprint coming up in around 15km.
Italy's Adriano Malori (Lampre) has withdrawn from the race. He was struggling on the last climb after being involved in the crash towards the start of the stage.
The pace was so high that many riders missed the feed zone at the top of the last climb, which came at a critical time. The Greipel chasing group is 1:10 down with the Cavendish group now 2:40 back. Cannondale have seven or maybe eight of their riders - including the green jersey Peter Sagan - on the front of the race.
Kadri has now been caught by the peloton, which is fronted by Cannondale, with GreenEdge just behind, with their yellow jersey Daryl Impey. Voigt is giving it one final burst on the front. But he doesn't last long, and is caught very soon by the streamlined peloton.
Jens Voigt is still driving forward in the big ring as if there's no tomorrow - but he'll know that his time out in front is limited. He and Kadri now have a chat - it looks like they're unsure what their plan is. They only have 30 seconds and so it seems like they don't have much choice...
There are numerous groups behind the peloton, which still includes the yellow jersey of Daryl Impey. Andre Greipel rides 1:40 down on the Cannondale-led main pack, with the Cavendish group now a large 3:10 back. It looks like it's curtains for Cavendish. As for the two leaders, they only have 50 seconds now over the peloton.
Team Sky were really caught out on that climb, with three riders distanced in the grupetto - Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez and Geraint Thomas. Still, Chris Froome will prefer it happens to day than tomorrow...
Great spoil tactics by Bardet, who jumps clear of Rolland to cross the summit in third place. Points over the top are thus: 1. Kadri +5, 2. Voigt +3, 2. Bardet +2, 4. Rolland +1. That means Kadri is the virtual polka dot jersey, with 12 points to Rolland's 11. We have two more climbs and a maximum of 3pts left up for grabs.
ATTACK: Just as Blel Kadri crosses the summit of the climb ahead of Jens Voigt, Pierre Rolland, on cue, puts in an attack in search of the remaining points over the top of the summit. The Europcar polka dot jersey has Romain Bardet, Kadri's Ag2R team-mate, with him.
Cannondale are riding extremely well and have managed to distance all the other sprinters with this fiersome pace. They clearly want Peter Sagan to win today. The Cavendish group is now two minutes back.
Now Blel Kadri is having a go on the front as the summit approaches. He wants those points. Back with the peloton, OQPS have disappeared from the front because of the Cavendish collapse. The sprinter has four team-mates with him now, as Cannondale continue to drive the pace.
The two leaders have 2:25 over the peloton, with the Cavendish group another minute back.
Mark Cavendish is one of the riders distanced - and he has Jerome Pineau with him while his team-mates Tony Martin and Sylvain Chavanel ride hard on the front alongside Cannondale. He'll have to hold on and try and fight back over the top - because there's an intermediate sprint about 30km down the road.
There are numerous splits in the peloton thanks to the blistering pace being dictated by Cannondale. Damiano Cunego of Lampre is one of the riders who has been distanced. There were a number of punctures at the foot of the climb too, including one to Sky's Vasil Kiryienka. Thomas Voeckler is off the back because he was off the back getting some food from his Europcar team car when the pace was cranked up.
It's Voigt who's driving the pace on the front of this tree-lined climb. The scenery is pretty stunning - not that the leaders will have much time to appreciate it. Their gap is dropping pretty fast thanks to the pace-setting on the front of the peloton. It's three minutes now.
Jens Voigt and Blel Kadri have reached the start of the Cat.2 Col de la Croix de Mounis (6.7km at 6.5%) with four minutes over the peloton. Back with the peloton, it's Cannondale and OPQS who are setting the pace for their men Sagan and Cavendish.
The two leaders have made it down the short and sharp descent and are making their way to the foot of the next climb, which is longer and harder.
The peloton cross the summit 4:10 down on the two leaders, with Philippe Gilbert of BMC coming over a bit later because of a mechanical issue. The world champion needs to change his bike near the summit and so is a little delayed over the top.
Blel Kadri took the two points over the summit ahead of Jens Voigt. That puts the Frenchman on 7pts in the KOM standings - just three behind compatriot Pierre Rolland.
The two leaders are onto the first climb of the day, the Cat.3 Col des 13 Vents - 6.9km at 5.6%.
Regarding the comment earlier about Astana's withdrawals from the race: it is indeed Andrey Kashechkin and not Jakob Fuglsang who is the third Astana rider, alongside Kessiakoff and Brajkovic, to retire. The Kazakh was the first to leave the race, in stage three. As for Fuglsang - he is currently in 45th place on GC, 1:01 down on leader Daryl Impey.
Prentice Steffen, the Garmin-Sharp doctor, told LeTour.fr this about Christian Vande Velde's crash and withdrawal earlier today: "It was the second crash he had in three days and unfortunately his injuries have forced him to quit the Tour. He has multiple cuts after the crash today, added to those he sustained in stage five. His neck has a blood clot, one of the screws is coming lose in his collarbone, and he has upper back injuries. In short, it was impossible for him to finish today's stage."
Andy Schleck, Voigt's team-mate and Frank's brother, is also angry about the decision, which he says he cannot understand. "I'm sad and disappointed but I don't know what to say. Maybe they will use it against me and fire me as well," he said. "To kick him out of the team after 11 months of giving him their support, I just don't understand it." For his part, Voigt hopes Andy "can transform his anger in a positive way by pushing on the pedals".
The RadioShack camp is not a very happy place at the moment following the team's decision to sack Frank Schleck days before his Xipamide doping ban comes to an end. Voigt himself said he was "shocked" by the decision. "I thought we'd have him back racing over the next five months. I'm disappointed that he’s not there. I've been messaging him. It's no secret we are good friends. I know he's been training hard and we already had a race program, which included the Tour of Spain."
While Jens Voigt is riding his 16th consecutive Tour de France, his breakaway companion Blel Kadri is only on his third successive Grande Boucle for Ag2R-La Mondiale. The 26-year-old has never won a stage on the Tour but has shown good form this season, winning the Roma Maxima semi classic in Italy this spring. Kadri is on 5pts in the KOM standings, so if he picks up maximum points over the next two climbs, he'll be in the polka dot jersey tonight.
The remaining 190 riders have now ridden 1,000 kilometres since the start in Porto-Vecchio, so they're almost one-third way through the 100th edition of the Tour.
The gap has stabilised at around 5:40. After a freneticly fast start, today's stage has calmed down somewhat. It's nothing like the nervous, cagey affair that we saw yesterday, when the peloton was on edge because of the heat and crosswinds.
The average speed for the first hour of racing was 43.2kmh for the two leaders, Kadri and Voigt. Their lead is currently 5:45 over the peloton, which is being marshalled by the OPQS team of Mark Cavendish.
At 41 years of age, Jens Voigt is the oldest man in the race for a third year running. The German is part of a RadioShack team that is the most experienced in the Tour, with 48 starts and 39 finishes between them - although they do have two debutants in the ranks. German Voigt has won two individual stages on the Tour in his career - in 2001 and 2006 - and has worn the yellow jersey twice. This year, Jens won a stage on the Tour of California to show that there's still life in the old dog yet.
The gap is coming down for the two escapees, with OPQS upping the pace in the pack. It has dropped below the six-minute mark.
The OPQS team of Mark Cavendish have come to the front of the peloton to control the pace - evidence that they believe their man can take the win today despite the hilly parcours. The two leaders have 6:15 over the pack so will stay out for a fair bit - perhaps until the penultimate climb.
The South Africans like Montpellier: Robbie Hunter became the first African stage winner on the Tour with victory in 2007 in the same city where Daryl Impey would, six years later, become the first African to don the yellow jersey. Thanks to Impey, South Africa becomes the 23rd different country to top the GC. The 22nd country was Ukraine, in 2006, thanks to Sergey Honchar.
It's a very sad way for Christian Vande Velde to bid farewell to the Tour de France. The American retires at the end of the season. This was his 11th and final appearance in the Grand Boucle, a race he's finished inside the top ten twice (2008, 2009). This is the third time that the 37-year-old has not completed the Tour in his career.
The fall-out from that crash means the two leaders, Voigt and Kadri, have now six minutes over the peloton.
Nairo Quintana, the Colombian climber from Movistar, was also involved in that crash. That's his second fall in as many days. It would be cruel if he's badly affected by those falls ahead of the mountains, where he is expected to excel alongside his team-mate Alejandro Valverde. Quintana is now back in the peloton after riding back with Michael Schar (BMC) and Gatis Smukulis (Katusha).
Christian Vande Velde has abandoned the Tour according to race radio. The American has been in the wars, crashing in Corsica and then again en route to Marseilles, where he hurt his back, neck and collarbone. That crash this morning was clearly the straw that broke the camel's back...
Voigt and Kadri now have 2:10 over the peloton so are riding well together. That crash back in the pack will have helped them open up some daylight.
All the riders involved in that crash are back on their bikes. Christian Vande Valde (Garmin), Daniel Moreno (Katusha) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) were amongst the dozen riders affected by that fall.
The two escapees - Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Leopard) - now have 1:10 over the peloton so it looks like this is going to be today's small break. Kadri is clearly motivated by the KOM points while Voigt, well, Voigt just loves cycling.
CRASH: Numerous riders are down in the pack...
The pace is extremely high - up to 70kmh on a slight downhill start. But two riders are certainly keen to break clear today: Voigt and Kadri have jumped once again and are riding clear of the pack.
Voigt was joined by Enrico Gasparotto (Astana), Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale), Ruben Perez (Euskaltel), Sep Vanmarcke (Belkin) and Julien El Fares (Sojasun). But the peloton is having nothing of it and all six riders have been reeled in.
ATTACK: Six riders are out in front of the pack, including RadioShack's Jens Voigt, the olderst man in the race.
They're off! The remaining 190 riders get the show on the road...
Two riders withdrew from the race yesterday during a long and sweltering stage that was hampered by blustery crosswinds: French sprinter Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ) and Swedish climber Frederik Kessiakoff (Astana). Another Astana rider, Janez Brajkovic, crashed heavily with 12km remaining. He finished the stage but was told by race doctors to call it a day and so withdrew in the evening. Astana are down to just six riders, having already lost Jakob Fuglsang.
It's a hot day in Montpellier at the start, with the sun high in a blue sky and the temperature currently pushing the high 20s. The riders are just approaching the end of the neutral zone and Christian Prudhomme, the Tour director, has his flag primed...
Despite the four climbs on the agenda today, this final stage of the opening week of the race could well come down to a bunch sprint - especially with GreenEdge keen to hold onto the yellow jersey until the real mountains this weekend. A break will no doubt ride off the front - but depending on its riders, and how the sprinters feel over these climbs, it could come back for a bunch gallop in the historical town of Albi. Perhaps Sagan will finally get his first win after a string of seconds.
And finally, Poland's Michal Kwiatkowski (OPQS) leads the white jersey competition as best young rider in the race. The 23-year-old is 16 seconds ahead of Garmin's Andrew Talansky if the US in the standings after some consistent riding since the start of the race.
Today could see some action in the polka dot king of the mountains competition, what with four categorised climbs on the menu ahead of the weekend's back-to-back stages in the Pyrenees. Frenchman Pierre Rolland (Europcar) currently leads the competition on 10 points, which is double the amount held by his nearest rivals Blel Kadri (Ag2R-La Mondiale) and Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge). Thomas De Gendt of Vacansoleil-DCM, who looks to have made the polka dot jersey a priority, is fourth on 4pts.
Peter Sagan may have recorded his third second-place of the race, but his consistent finishing saw his retain the green jersey in the points competition. Andre Greipel is, however, breathing down his neck after picking up a clean sweep yesterday - winning both the intermediate sprint and the stage. The pair are separated by 29 points, with Mark Cavendish third, a further 11 points back.
History was made yesterday as South Africa's Daryl Impey became the first ever African rider to wear the leader's yellow jersey after his Orica-GreenEdge team-mate, the overnight leader Simon Gerrans, came home five seconds down after a split appeared in the peloton in the closing 500 metres. 28-year-old Impey leads Norway's Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) by three seconds on GC, with Gerrans now third, five seconds in arrears and level on time with fellow team-mate Michael Albasini.
Yesterday, German national champion Andre Greipel opened up his account with a solid sprint win in Montpellier following a text-book lead-out by his Lotto-Belisol team-mates. The Gorilla beat Slovakia's Peter Sagan (Cannondale) and compatriot Marcel Kittel (Argos Shimano) to take the fifth Tour stage win of his career, with Britain's Mark Cavendish finishing fourth after crashing earlier in the stage.
Welcome to live coverage of stage seven of the Tour de France - an undulating 205.5km ride inland from Montpellier to Albi that features four categorised climbs and, no doubt, some sweltering temperatures. The stage is due to get under way at 11:20 UK time.