ALBI, France — Slovakia’s Peter Sagan won the hilly seventh stage of the Tour de France in a sprint finish Friday while South Africa’s Daryl Impey kept the yellow jersey for another day before the race heads into the daunting Pyrenees.
Sagan held off John Degenkolb of Germany to capture his first stage victory in this year’s Tour, taking a big lead in his bid to defend the green jersey as top sprinter. Italy’s Daniele Bennati finished the stage in third.
‘‘I have to say my team did all the work today, they did an incredible job,’’ Sagan said through a translator. ‘‘They showed that they are perfectly capable.’’
Sagan leads Germany’s Andre Greipel in the sprinters’ race and is way ahead of archrival Mark Cavendish — the 2011 green jersey winner — who was dropped on the day’s toughest climb.
‘‘The idea was to get a few points today, and I admit I got a few more than I thought I would,’’ Sagan said.
Cavendish wilted on the ascent up Col de la Croix de Mounis.
‘‘Half the peloton were dropped on that climb,’’ Cavendish said. ‘‘It was not a good day for us. It was really difficult.’’
He rolled in more than 40 minutes behind Sagan, who is also an able climber and projected by five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault to become an overall contender providing he sheds some of his sprinter’s bulk and trims down.
Impey began the day as the first South African to wear the yellow jersey, but he will likely relinquish it after Saturday’s first of two difficult days of climbing in the high mountains of the Pyrenees.
He leads Norwegian sprinter Edvald Boasson Hagen by three seconds overall and his Orica Greenedge teammate Simon Gerrans by five.