Surging Martin climbs 'the wall' to earn stage victory

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DUTCHMAN Dylan Groenewegen outblasted his rivals to the line in a sprint to take the 231km seventh stage of the Tour de France - the longest of the race. Van Avermaet said. "But everyone kind of enjoyed it - the first day we could really relax".

"I just keep trying, our backs are against the wall all the time here". "I had no legs to beat the first two guys".

"I positioned myself in Kristoff's wheel and with two hundred metres to go I thought: this is the moment".

Belgian Greg van Avermaet stayed safe in the bunch all day and retained the overall leader's yellow jersey at the end of the stage, six seconds ahead of Welshman Geraint Thomas.

With almost six hours in the saddle and hardly any action until the finale, there was plenty of time to relax and fool around during the longest stage of the Tour de France on Friday.

Ambling along for just shy of six hours, the riders tackled the bulk of it at such a serene pace it might have been mistaken for the first rest day.

After the race, Martin admitted that he had gone for it a bit early but it was a risk he felt that was worth taking.

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"People had been saying I was not good enough to win a stage on this Tour, so I put my finger to my lips to tell them to shut up", said Groenewegen, explaining his gesture at the finish line.

Friday's flat 231-kilometre leg from Fougeres to Chartes is the longest stage of this Tour.

Laurent Pichon, another French rider with Fortuneo-Samsic, then also got away alone for a spell.

The overall favourites should be tested again in the cobblestoned Stage 9 on Sunday to Roubaix, before heading down to the Alps next week.

So far, the Tour is a "two-men show", Sme wrote, explaining that stage victories, with the exception of the time trial, were equally divided between Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan. After all, he boosted his bid for a sixth green jersey by finishing well ahead of other points classification hopefuls.

Jack Bauer of team Mitchelton-Scott finished the climb behind Skujins but then pushed on to build a gap of 20 seconds with 12km remaining.

Riders twice went up the Mur de Bretagne, or "Wall of Brittany", which the local cycling-crazed Bretons affectionately refer to as their smaller version of the famous Alpe d'Huez.