The riders were made to wait for what seemed like an age. Eventually, by a margin invisible to all but the Swissest of watches, the win was awarded to Marcel Kittel.
It should not have been that close. As talented a rider as Edvald Boasson Hagen is, and as impressively as he has taken over Dimension Data sprint duties following Mark Cavendish’s departure from the race – not just today but yesterday as well – he’d be the first to admit that he’s no first tier finisher.
But today was all about the assist and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg was on it.
As the fast guys charged into the final straight, the speed at the front ticked past 60, and then 70 kilometres per hour. With Eddy Boss on his wheel, and Kittel on Eddy Boss’s, the South African road champion held on far longer than seemed possible. It almost looked like he could take it to the line himself but then, with 150 to go, he flicked his elbow and let his team-mate fly.
Although this first week of the Tour has not been without talking points, one of the more widely adopted lessons had been that the traditional lead-out train was, if not quite dead, then certainly dying.
If the Stage 7 finale can be taken as any indication, however, reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated. There’s one man to thank for that: Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.
Tour de France 2017: Rouleur Top Bananas