The Pete Sagan Traveling Roadshow finally hit France after playing to packed crowds at the Tour of California (5 stage wins) and Tour de Suisse (4 stage wins.)
On the devastating uphill finish into Seraing, Sagan jumped onto Fabian Cacellara’s wheel when the Swiss champion attacked with 1.5 kilometers to go. The two powered clear with only Edvald Boassen Hagen (Sky) bridging up. Then Sagan, all of 22 years old and riding his first Tour, sprinted away from Monsieur Prologue for a commanding win. You can’t beat Pete!
It was Frenchman Sylvain Chavanel — who put in an impressive third place in the prologue — who dumped the gasoline on the favorites and lit the match. He attacked at the base of the final climb but was shut down by Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge). Then Cancellara did his warrior routine, creating an instant gap and only the attentive Sagan immediately responded.
Cancellara kept his maillot jaune — which was good news for the embattled RadioShack Nissan Trek team — but it was Sagan’s showcase. The Slovakian man-child looks like he could jump off his bike and play two hours of pro soccer and lift weights for a few hours. Fourth in Milan San Remo, 5th in Flanders, 3rd in Amstel and that’s together with his nine stage haul from California and Switzerland. It’s his first Tour win and given the versatility of his skills, who’d bet against him for a second win in this Tour?
I’m very happy that I have won,” Sagan said, who did a muscle man routine with his arms as he crossed the line. “After the Tour de Suisse I returned home to recover a bit. I talked with my friends about what I would do if I won and that was it.” He’s the youngest stage winner in the Tour since Lance Armstrong who was 21 when he took his victory in Verdun in 1993. (Funny how Armstrong’s name keeps coming up — yesterday is was the reminder that Cancellara had beaten the Texan in the Liege prologue back in 2004.)
While he might be young, Sagan knows exactly where he needs to be and what wheel that dictates. “When Chavanel attacked I realized I had to follow him,” Sagan said. “Then I ended up on the wheel of Cancellara. Before the day’s stage I spoke with my team manager and we said that Fabian Cancellara was the right person to follow. He is in very good condition right now,” Sagan said. “I’m sorry for Fabian that I didn’t take a pull but he was very strong.”
The Belgian stage and in particular the finish was scripted for the talents of Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing). Last year’s all-universe was game but just missed the cut, settling for fourth in the City of Iron. Alejandro “Nothing Wrong” Valverde (Movistar) also stuck his head into the stage with a 6th place.
Showing that the prologue wake-up call was effective, Robert Gesink (Rabobank) and Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) put in strong rides and made the top 11. Mr Wiggins, Evans and Nibali were all at the front and rolled in together. Cross that stage off their list, home safe and sound, no time lost.
While Liquigas is on the winner board, Omega Pharma QuickStep is having mechanical problems. In the prologue Tony Martin was forced to switch bikes and today he punctured and crashed. Levi Leipheimer’s bike also needed adjustment and he had to pull off for work on his seat height. However, the good news is that Sylvain Chavanel is flying.
Tomorrow’s stage in Tournai is tailor-made for the pure sprinters like Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, André Greipel and Marcus Kittel. The profile is flat and flatter with a straight shot to the line down Boulevard Bara. It’s not the ideal set-up for Sagan but he’s proved again and again he can win on most any course. He is, as they now call him, the Fastvakian.