It is a little cruel on the peloton that the longest stage of this Tour de France should fall the day after the hardest so far, and it means stage seven is likely to be a low-key affair for the general classification contenders – or so they will hope.

Stage six saw Geraint Thomas take a commanding position in the GC. He has only few seconds on the majority of his rivals, but his advantage is that the next serious test for those riders chasing the yellow jersey will come in next week’s individual time-trial, a discipline in which Thomas is far better than most.

Giulio Ciccone will wear yellow for now after finishing second on Thursday and is likely to retain it here, while the impressive Julian Alaphilippe is second in the overall standings, with Thomas fourth.

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Inevitably there will be a breakaway on a profile like this one, and Tim Wellens will again be desperate to be involved to scoop up the King of the Mountains points on offer in the three categorised climbs of the day, which all fall in the first half of the race, to strengthen his hold on the polka dot jersey.

The second half is hammered flat and looks set perfectly for a bunch sprint finish. It seems a tantalising opportunity too good for the sprinters to miss, and their teams will be desperate to deliver their fast guy in position to contend in Chalon-sur-Saone.

Of those who were brought to the race with the express mission of winning a flat stage, only Elia Viviani and Peter Sagan have so far delivered. For Jumbo-Visma’s Dylan Groenewegen, who crashed on stage one, and Lotto-Soudal’s Caleb Ewan, the pressure to deliver mounts with every passing day. 

But when it comes to reeling in a breakaway, they are unlikely to get much help from Team Ineos and the other all-out GC contenders, meaning one of the escapees could stay out all the way to the finish. In that situation a breakaway specialist like Thomas De Gendt or Steve Cummings could profit.

The stage seven profile (letour)

Favourites

Elia Viviani – After his supreme victory on stage four, Viviani is full of confidence and has the lead-out train via his Quick-Step teammates to be well positioned at the finish. ****

Dylan Groenewegen – All the frustrations of this opening week would be blown away by victory on stage seven for Groenewegen. ***

Caleb Ewan – The Australian is yet to show his form from the Giro d’Italia but don’t discount Lotto-Soudal to set him up for the win here. **

Peter Sagan – When there’s a bunch sprint, you never discount Sagan, although this is the kind of stage in which he has historically finished second of third, rather than the rolling profile which he conquered on stage five. **

Steve Cummings – The Dimension Data rider has said he is targeting a stage win at this Tour and perhaps this is a day he has his eye on. If he’s in the break and it stays away, he will be right in his comfort zone. *

What time does it start?

The stage is scheduled to start at around 10.30am BST, an early start for a long day in the saddle.

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