Trentin delight after close finish
Matteo Trentin was thrilled to edge out Peter Sagan in a photo-finish to win the seventh stage of the Tour de France in Nancy on Friday and give Omega Pharma-QuickStep its first win of the 101st edition of the race.
The 234.5-kilometres route from Epernay was the second longest stage of this year's race and lit up when the riders reached the day's second and final categorised climb.
The summit of the Cote de Boufflers came with 5.5km to go, with Sagan (Cannondale) prominent over the top, but the leaders regrouped in a technical finale and Italian Trentin pipped Sagan by the narrowest of margins.
"I've won by just a few centimeters," Trentin said on letour.com.
"It was very nervous with this complicated finale and those crashes but I didn't realise really because everything was happening behind me.
"Surprisingly, I wasn't feeling good this morning, but on the way, I felt better and better. After the first climb, I realised something was possible.
"(Michal) Kwiatkowski led me out to perfection. I had to finish it off. But at the end, I really thought that Sagan had passed me."
The Belgian squad had to regroup following leader Mark Cavendish's exit on day one and Italian Trentin's second Tour stage win will come as a welcome success.
"It's wonderful for the team, especially after six days of bad luck," Trentin added.
Sagan appears comfortable in the points classification's green jersey with the race only a week old, but he is still chasing a fifth stage win of his career and a first of the 2014 Tour.
"When I win, people complain that I win easily and now people think it's strange that I don't win, but the reality is that it's not easy to win," Sagan said on letour.com.
"This is another good day for the green jersey but something extra is missing and that's a stage win.
"There's still a long way (to go) in the Tour de France and my day will come. At least I hope so."
The remnants of the day's six-man breakaway were caught on the slopes of the Cote de Maron, the day's first of two classified climbs in the final 20km.
The teams were frantically fighting for position and there was a crash in the bunch which brought down Tejay van Garderen (BMC) among others. The American was unable to recover and finished more than a minute down.
The frenetic pace continued towards the foot of the second and final climb, the 1.3km, category four Cote de Boufflers, with Cannondale to the fore, working for Sagan.
Cyril Gautier (Europcar) was the first to attack, with Tinkoff-Saxo's Nicolas Roche following and his leader Alberto Contador on his wheel.
Nibali was tucked in behind Contador as Greg van Avermaet (BMC) crested the summit with Sagan on his wheel.
A technical finish, with two right-angled turns in the final 2km proved difficult.
Richie Porte (Team Sky) led a group of around 40 through the flamme rouge at 1km to go, sweeping up Sagan and Van Avermaet, with a crash splitting the leading group.
The main protagonists - Nibali, Contador and Porte among them - were safe and contended for the sprint.
Garmin-Sharp's Andrew Talansky tumbled in the closing 100m during the sprint, which Trentin won as Sagan missed out narrowly once more. Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol) was third.
Garmin-Sharp boss Jonathan Vaughters was angry with Simon Gerrans' role in Talansky's crash.
Vaughters told British Eurosport: "Gerrans moved out of the sprinters' lane, which is illegal.
"It would be nice if he came and gave an apology.
"He (Talansky) is fine. Lucky, because that was a very hard crash."
Vaughters later revealed on Twitter that Orica-GreenEdge's Gerrans had apologised.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) retained the yellow jersey for another day by finishing 16th.
Saturday's lumpy, 161km eighth stage in the Vosges from Tomblaine to Gerardmer La Mauselaine provides a further test for the peloton, with the possibility a breakaway will prosper, while Nibali could even consider relinquishing the maillot jaune to take the pressure off his team.
The Italian champion said on letour.com: "The coming weekend is going to be very difficult with a lot of climbs on the course.
"Alberto Contador gave me a signal of what he's keen to do when he asked Nicolas Roche to pull today. They didn't take me by surprise.
"To wear the yellow jersey is a motivating factor. It creates a positive stress. It's not that tiring for me but it is for my team-mates."
Porte, Team Sky leader after defending champion Chris Froome crashed out, moved up to sixth, 1:54 behind Nibali by finishing 19th on the stage.
"This is a big opportunity for me and I'm going to fight every day," the Australian said on teamsky.com.