CHALON-SUR-SAÔNE, France — Less than a week ago in Brussels, Dylan Groenewegen sat dejected in the middle of a road, his body language oozing disappointment as he was attended to by the Tour de France doctor.
One of the fastest sprinters in the world with one of the most powerful teams, Jumbo-Visma, Groenewegen had been expected to win the opening stage and seize the yellow jersey. Instead, he was caught in a crash and had to watch his lead out man, Mike Teunissen, claim all the honors.
To add to his torment, Teunissen and Groenewegen are roommates on the Tour, meaning Groenewegen had to spend the night with the yellow jersey in his room.
Banged up and demoralized, Groenewegen took a few days to recover, well beaten in the sprints that followed. He finally put his poor Tour start behind him with the tightest of wins in the longest stage on Friday.
“It was not the start I wanted,” Groenewegen, a Dutchman, said candidly after pointing a finger in celebration as he crossed the line. “Over the last days, I focused on today. My team did a really good job. The tactics was to go full gas, and I took the win.”
Groenewegen edged his Australian rival Caleb Ewan and the former world champion Peter Sagan of Slovakia as he claimed his fourth career stage win on the Tour.
After a final technical hairpin bend, the 143-mile stage featured a one-mile path to the finish that gave pure sprinters a perfect opportunity to shine. The Italian sprinter Elia Viviani was led out by his teammates but lacked speed and dropped out of contention. It was then a tight battle between Groenewegen and Ewan, with the former averaging 46 miles per hour and winning by just a few inches.
Before that intense finale, riders used Stage 7 to recover from Thursday’s brutal ride, and it made for painfully dull viewing.
“A long slow day on the saddle,” the defending champion Geraint Thomas said. “Everything was starting to ache by the end, your wrists and your feet and stuff.”
There was no significant movement in the overall standings. The Tour rookie Giulio Ciccone kept the yellow jersey with a six-second lead over Julian Alaphilippe. Among the favorites, Thomas remained the best placed rider, just 49 seconds off the pace.
Squeezed between the crossings of the Vosges and Massif Central mountains, the stage took the peloton from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône in east-central France. After a day of hardship in the Vosges that culminated with the brutal ascent to the Planches des Belles Filles, the peloton rode at a pedestrian pace, and nobody moved in the outskirts of Belfort when the breakaway specialists Yoann Offredo and Stéphane Rossetto made a move.
Offredo and Rossetto could not make the most of the peloton’s apathy. They were reined in about seven and a half miles from the finish.
On the Tour’s longest day, some riders were caught napping. The American Tejay Van Garderen and Teunissen both hit the tarmac soon after the start, close to a road divider. Van Garderen was attended to by three of his teammates and eventually got back on his bike, his face bloodied and his jersey ripped. Nicolas Roche soldiered on, too, after he fell onto his bike on a long section of flat road.
Van Garderen was scheduled to have X-rays. His team will decide on Saturday whether he is fit to continue.
“His main complaint right now is the thumb,” said Kevin Sprouse, a team doctor. “He’s got some bruising and swelling and just a lot of pain gripping. He may need a stich or two in the chin.”