It was a great day for Britain at the end of Stage 7 of the Tour de France 2015, as Etixx-Quick Step rider Mark Cavendish sprinted to victory and bagged the stage honours.
His compatriot Chris Froome – winner of the Tour de France in 2013 – also laid his hands once again on the yellow jersey, after Tony Martin pulled out of the race this year following an unfortunate crash.
Martin suffered a crash during Stage 6 of the tour as he went down heavily within the last kilometre and after eventually picking himself up, had to be nursed to the finishing line by three of his team-mates.
However, despite suffering a broken collarbone, the German rider's indomitable spirit enabled him to recover in time for Stage 7. But doctors were unwilling to let him compete anymore, forcing Martin to take the painful decision to pull out, with a focus on his future.
Even Cavendish said that his stage win on the day was a tribute to Martin.
"What happened to Tony Martin yesterday is a very sad way to lose the yellow jersey. Losing him is a big loss for us. On and off the bike, he's a great guy. It's like we started the Tour de France with twelve guys and we're left with eight," said Cavendish.
"I'm glad Tony's operation went well. I wanted to win for him today. I would have loved him to be here to celebrate with us. I dedicate the victory to him."
The Briton powered past Stage 5 winner and current green jersey holder Andre Greipel about 50m from the line on an uphill finish in Fougères. Peter Sagan came third in the 190.5km stretch of the race from Livarot in rural France to the scenic city of Fougères.
Cavendish, in the process, scored his 26th stage victory at the Tour de France and his first TDF success in almost two years.
"Every of my 26 wins are special. One stage victory make a rider's career, so to come here and win every year is great. It's been a while since I last won: two years. It's nice to come back as a winner in the presence of my wife and my daughter," Cavendish continued.
"I don't know how many other opportunities there'll be for a bunch sprint before Paris. Maybe in Valence, maybe in Rodez but the finish seems to be hard and it'll be against Peter Sagan who will probably win the green jersey again this year."
The focus now shifts to Stage 8. From Rennes to Mûr-de-Bretagne, the 181.5km stretch of the race features a 2km climb to the summit finish. The Stage ends atop a short, steep climb — in this case, the 2 km 'Wall of Brittany'.
Narrow roads will be a factor in Stage 8, as Brittany is famous for roads barely wider than footpaths. It is also mooted that the run-in to the final climb will be tense.
"The path to the heart of Brittany on the roads of the Côtes-d'Armor area puts an end to a period made for sprinters," Christian Prudhomme, Director, Tour de France, told Australian Broadcasting Service SBS.
"The candidates for a leading role will indeed have to take command of the race. The battle for seconds will witness a new fierce episode on the final climb that will this time be made even harder without a previous surge. And the gaps at the finish, even reduced, could have severe consequences."
WHERE TO WATCH LIVE
In India, the Tour de France Stage 8 can be watched live on Ten Sports (7pm IST), with the option of live streaming on tensports.com
Viewers in the UK can catch it on Eurosport from 1:15pm BST. ITV4 will be broadcasting with programmes starting at 2pm BST while S4C's live coverage starts at 3pm.
Highlights: Eurosport2 6pm-7pm & 9pm-10:30pm; ITV4 7pm-8pm; S4C from 10pm
Viewers in the US can catch it on NBC from 8am ET - broadcasting four to five hours of live coverage every stage on its NBC Sports channel.
NBC Sports will also air a slightly compressed three-hour broadcast of each stage in primetime, starting at 8pm ET each night.