- Tour de France, Stage Seven
Sagan takes green jersey as Cavendish drops
Peter Sagan won Stage Seven of the Tour de France to extend his points lead and strengthen his grip on the green jersey thanks to some expert tactics from his Cannondale team.
Sagan and his colleagues hit the front of the peloton on the second climb of the day and maintained a pace that saw a group dropped, including Britain's Mark Cavendish.
Sagan, in pole position on the flat finish, out-sprinted John Degenkolb, who finished second, and Daniele Bennati in third.
"I have to say my team did all the work today, they did an incredible job," Sagan told reporters. "They showed that they are perfectly capable."
Sagan leads Germany's Andre Greipel in the sprinters' race and is way ahead of arch rival Cavendish - the 2011 green jersey winner - who was dropped on the day's toughest climb.
"The idea was to get a few points today, and I admit I got a few more than I thought I would," Sagan said.
Cavendish wilted on the ascent up Col de la Croix de Mounis.
"Half the peloton were dropped on that climb," Cavendish said. "It was not a good day for us. It was really difficult."
He rolled in more than 40 minutes behind Sagan, who is also an able climber and projected by five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault to become an overall contender providing he sheds some of his sprinter's bulk and trims down.
Daryl Impey began the day as the first South African to wear the yellow jersey, but he will likely relinquish it after Saturday's first of two difficult days of climbing in the high mountains of the Pyrenees.
"I'm not going to lie to you. I'm not used to being in this situation," Impey said. "A lot of the radio stations and Internet sites had put out a thing today to show support for me. It was called `Impey's Yellow Friday' where a lot of people today actually wore something yellow for me.
"That was a great response from South Africa," he added. "Then there was a song they were playing on the radio. It's `Impi' by Johnny Clegg."
He leads Norwegian sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen by three seconds overall and his Orica Greenedge team-mate Simon Gerrans by five.
None is considered a serious Tour challenger, but Impey was desperate to keep the jersey a little longer.
"An opportunity like this doesn't come often. We knew today was probably our last chance," he said. "There was a moment on the second climb when the pressure was on but we handled it well."
The average speed picked up considerably in the fourth hour, jumping up to nearly 30 mph in temperatures again above 90 degrees for the 128-mile trek from Montpellier to Albi.
In fact, there has hardly been a drop of rain so far - perhaps unsurprising given that the race started on the picturesque island of Corsica before jumping over to Nice on the French riviera, and then down to Marseille and Montpellier.
Veteran American rider Christian Vande Velde pulled out after being caught up in an early crash - one of several that have marred a nervy start to the 100th edition of the showcase race.
Early into Stage Seven, German veteran Jens Voigt got into an early breakaway. But any dreams the 41-year-old had of becoming the oldest stage winner since Pino Cerami in 1963 melted in the sun.
Race favorites like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador are likely to attack Saturday up the famed Col de Pailheres, which winds upward for nine tortuous miles at a gradient of eight percent.
"I'm definitely looking forward to the Pyrenees. I think it will help the race to settle down a lot," Froome said. "It's been quite a stressful first week."
Stage Seven result
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, 4:54:12
2. John Degenkolb (Ger) Argos-Shimano, st
3. Daniele Bennati (Ita) Saxo-Tinkoff, st
4. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, st
6. Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Astana, st
7. Tony Gallopin (Fra) RadioShack-Leopard, st
8. Arthur Vichot (Fra) FDJ, st
9. Manuele Mori (Ita) Lampre-Merida, st
10. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
1. Daryl Impey (RSA) Orica-GreenEDGE, 22:18:17
2. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky, +3sec
3. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEDGE, +5
4. Michael Albasini (Sui) Orica-GreenEDGE, same time
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +6
6. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
7. Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +8
8. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky, st
9. Nicolas Roche (Ire) Saxo-Tinkoff, +14
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Saxo-Tinkoff, st