This should have been an easy Tour de France stage win for reigning World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hasgrohe)
All degrees of difficulty went down. A slightly uphill finish in La Roche-Sur-Yon that suited him, a puncture at 8k that takes out Katusha’s Marcel Kittel, another crash with 2k that knocks down stage one winner Fernando Gaviria (Quickstep) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) and holds up most of the peloton, a numerical superiority with two teammates in a reduced bunch of 14 riders that were in front on the crash — everything was in Sagan’s favor.
Still, it was far from easy.
The final ten kilometers were fast, hectic and stressful as only a Tour de France stage in the first week can be. The greater the number of fresh legs, the higher the risk of disaster. After yesterday’s high number of mishaps and crashes — which put Chris Froome (Team Sky), Richie Porte (BMC) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) over 50 seconds back, there was even more pressure to be up front and out of danger.
That’s the kind of demanding stage that also favors Sagan, his exceptional bike handling skills and the sense of calm and experience that comes with three rainbow jerseys in a row.
Watching Sagan handle the final two kilometers was to see a superstar in full control of his abilities and tactical awareness. Julien Alaphilippe, (Quickstep) taking over the lead sprinter role after Gaviria’s crash, went early and immediately faded. Then Andre Demare (FDJ) jumped with 200 meters with Sagan patiently tucked in behind the Frenchman’s wheel.
Finally, Sagan hit the gas and looked to be that easy stage victory, his tenth in the Tour de France.
However, Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida) almost stole the show with a impressive acceleration that nearly beat Sagan at the line. Had the finish line come another 50 meters later, it would have been the Italian drinking the champagne.
Sagan knew that his win was anything but straightforward or simple.
“We were in front all of the last 30k. In the end, I expected something more easy but it was really tough, up and down, with climbs and descents. I said it was better to start [the sprint] later today. Demare started with Degenkolb and I overtook them, but I was really lucky Colbrelli didn’t jump me,” said Sagan.
It was a bittersweet loss for Colbrelli bu he attempted to put his performance in a positive light. “Congratulations to him. The condition is there. It’s always hard but today I didn’t lose by much so I’ll try again in the coming stages.”
Sagan has the yellow jersey but only for a day as the coveted leaders jersey will go to a rider in the winning team in the 35k Team Time Trial in Cholet on Monday. That’s a day that where a sprinter like Sagan can probably rest just a little easy.