Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen burst past Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria to seal a first win on this Tour de France on Friday, saying he'd refound his confidence, speed and pride at the end of a 231km seventh stage from Fougeres to Chartres.
'Also, if those cycling journalists talked about some really choppy riders rather than me, trying to get clicks, then we'd see who they really are'.
"I was pretty disappointing in the first few stages but now I've got the power back in my legs", said the 25-year-old from Amsterdam who dislikes comparisons to Briton Mark Cavendish.
"My shape is getting better by the day, I'm proud that I won again today", Groenewegen said.
World champion road racer Sagan said he'd been happy enough to stay on Gaviria's wheel and keep ahead in the green points jersey race. "I had no legs to beat the first two guys". "People said I was not good enough after the first sprints but that's not true", he said.
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The Dutch cyclist, who rides for Team Lotto NL-Jumbo, clocked almost six hours over the 231-kilometer (143.5-mile) trek from Fougeres, home to the best-preserved and largest medieval fortress in Europe, to Chartres, site of a vast cathedral known for its stained-glass windows.
After winning such a prestigious stage to conclude last year's Tour, Groenewegen struggled to make an impact in the early days of this race, a fourth-place finish in Stage 4 his best effort until this victory, which he feels will kickstart his race.
"It was quite long - 230k".
The stage continued on placidly with the time gap slowly eroding until the bonus sprint in Loeuilly at kilometre 20, which was won by race leader Greg van Avermaet (BMC) and where the peloton animated.
In a quiet stage, separate solo breaks from Yoann Offredo and Laurent Pichon - as well as a brief split in the peloton amid high winds - had all come to nothing by the time 23 miles remained, when the latter was caught by the bunch. The French rider with the Wanty-Groupe Gobert team established an advantage of more than eight minutes _ the biggest breakaway lead in this year's Tour _ before being caught by the pack with 90 kilometres to go.
Stage 8 on Saturday covers a slightly more challenging terrain over 181 kilometres from Dreux to Amiens but again should set up well for sprinters.