Greg Van Avermaet held off a charge by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) on Friday's uphill finish to deliver the BMC Racing Team its third stage win of this year's Tour de France.
Van Avermaet and the peloton only swept up the last three riders from the day's six-man breakaway in the last 300 meters of the 198.5-kilometer race. Van Avermaet started his sprint with Sagan on his wheel and twice held off surges from the Slovakian national road champion and points classification leader to earn his first career Tour de France stage win.
"It was really close," Van Avermaet said. "I went really early because in Le Havre (on Stage 6), everyone was waiting. So I tried to go from the bottom. It was really long the last 100 meters and I saw there was somebody in my wheel, so I just kept on sprinting. I was just hoping that he didn't come over me."
Van Avermaet said he was not aware that the rider chasing him was Sagan, who has four times finished runner-up on stages of this year's race. Jan Bakelants (Ag2r La Mondiale) finished third, three seconds back.
"I saw a wheel, but I didn't know who was there," Van Avermaet said. "I just kept on going to the line. I knew it would be hard. Once you are there, you just have to keep on going. It was a good finish for me."
BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen finished 10th, and in the same time as race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), to maintain his second place in the overall standings.
"The plan was to watch dangerous breaks and to stay safe and then Greg had a free role in the sprint," van Garderen said. "It's incredible. We are really on a roll this Tour with the team time trial win and Rohan Dennis winning the individual time trial and now Greg taking our third stage. I think we are on our way to a successful tour."
Van Avermaet's stirring stage win was his fourth victory of the season, to go along with a stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico in March and a stage win and the overall title at the Baloise Tour of Belgium in May. It was the BMC Racing Team's 19th win of the season.
"This is just crazy," BMC Racing Team Sport Director Yvon Ledanois said. "Three victories after not even two weeks is just crazy. But we have a big team and a strong team - one that has a good ambiance. We talked with Greg in the pre-race meeting and told him to take this opportunity. It was a big opportunity for him and he took it and won."