Marcel Kittel wins photo finish Tour de France seventh stage

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Marcel Kittel.

Marcel Kittel pipped Edvald Boasson Hagen by the tiniest of margins in a photo finish to the seventh stage of Tour de France on Friday.

To the naked eye, and even television pictures, it seemed impossible to separate the pair as they crossed the line in Nuits Saint-Georges.

But after a nervous wait and several inclusive views of the finish line battle, Quick-Step’s Kittel was awarded his third stage win of the year and 12th in total, matching the record for a German held by Erik Zabel.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Norwegian Boasson Hagen who looked all set for victory until a late charge by the irrepressible Kittel, already winner of the second and sixth stages, although far more convincingly.

Australian Michael Matthews finished third as reigning champion Chris Froome maintained his overall lead at the end of the 213.5km stage from Troyes on another day of minimal drama, until the controversial finish.

For the overall contenders it was another day to simply stay out of trouble before the weekend’s back-to-back mountain stages when the yellow jersey battle will return to centre stage.

In the meantime, the top sprinters will have two days to lick their wounds and try to conjure up a way to stop Kittel.

Louis Meintjes of UAE Team Emirates finished 52nd and is 13th overall in the general classifications after stage seven.

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UAE Team Emirates' Vegard Stake Laengen claims most aggressive rider award after three-man breakaway during stage six

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Making debut tour appearance: Vegard Stake Laengen.

UAE Team Emirates’ Vegard Stake Laengen put up a thrilling attacking display during stage six of the Tour to win the award for the most aggressive rider of the day and will go into stage seven wearing the red numbered bib.

A breakaway specialist, the Norwegian – who is competing in his first Tour de France – formed part of the three-man breakaway group that went on to head the race for over 210km. The group were eventually caught just 3km from the finish.

The riders fought with temperatures of over 30 degrees throughout the stage, which finished in the French town of Troyes, with Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) producing a sensational sprint finish to win his second stage of the Tour.

Speaking after the stage Vegard Stake Laengen, who was the largest man in the three rider breakaway group, said: “It was a hard stage, almost totally flat. It was hard to believe that the breakaway should arrive to the finish. Hopefully later in the Tour I will try on stages with more climbs. I’m taking more wind than the others, but I have a good position on my Colnago bike and I had good legs, so it was OK today.”

Stage seven is again suited to the sprinters, with just one categorized climb on the 213.5km course. The peloton will leave Troyes where the race will likely see a breakaway heading to Nuits-St-Georges. However, the breakaway group will expect to be drawn back in during what is anticipated to be a hard fought 50km sprint finish.

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UAE Team Emirates rider Louis Meintjes finishes 11th in stage five of the Tour de France

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Stellar performance: Louis Meintjes.

UAE Team Emirates’ Louis Meintjes put in a strong display amongst the climbers during stage five of the Tour de France, crossing the finish line in 11th place, only to be denied a top 10 finish by Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), who had started the day wearing the yellow jersey.

Riders were tasked with a brutal up-hill climb to end stage five – the first summit finish of the Tour. Fabio Aru (Astana Pro Team) rode to a clear victory, having made a break from the front pack with less than 3km to go.

Chris Froome remains at the summit of the General Classification while Meintjes moves up 100 places to 13th.

Speaking after the stage, Meintjes said: “It was really fast right from the start, they let a strong breakaway go but they kept the gap small so all day was fast and nervous. The last 2km was really fast and the guys that had legs left on the finish. It was almost like a sprint finish with a really steep final. I was just a little bit empty when I arrived there.”

Riders will head in to stage six having an understanding of how the Tour is starting to play out. The 216km flat between Vesoul and Troyes will give sprinters ample opportunities to pull back crucial seconds after the previous stage’s summit finish.

However, the terrain may cause some riders issues and a series of sharp corners, curves and roundabouts leading to the finish-line could make for a thrilling end to the stage.

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