Chasing Le Tour: Sagan joins the winners’ list

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Until today Peter Sagan hadn’t won a stage at this year’s Tour and he wasn’t satisfied with “just” wearing the green jersey. But now that Sagan has opened his account, the four biggest sprint contenders (Sagan, Cavendish, Greipel and Kittel) have all joined the winners’ list.

Earlier this week RadioShack-Leopard’s Jan Bakelants earmarked stage 7 as one he was targeting, and his roommate Jens “Shut up legs!” Voigt quickly put himself out there as a pawn to set it up for him.

With Jens in the break, Radioshack-Leopard could sit back and let the other teams do the chasing. It would have been ideal if there were more riders in the break to help Jens and Blel Kadri out, but apparently nobody wanted to play, maybe because there’s two big days in the Pyrenees looming.

Voigt and Kadri were brought back sooner than they would have liked — with 97km remaining in the 205km stage — but Bakelants still played his cards, showing just as much commitment in leaping off the front of the peloton as he did before winning stage 2.

But stage 7 was all about Cannondale. The team took to the front and dictated proceedings to play to Sagan’s strengths. While all the other sprinters were off the back — thanks to consecutive climbs — Cannondale drove the pace and ensured the sprinters couldn’t come back.

Sagan said after the race “After the intermediate sprint we saw that there was a break and so my teammates came and asked me ‘Why don’t we go on like that so the other sprinters never come back and you can win the stage?”

As Sagan said in the post-race press conference, the plan worked to perfection.

“Today it was a fantastic job from the team. A few days ago there were critics on the internet saying that I didn’t have a team as strong as Greipel or Cavendish to lead me into the sprint. I don’t agree with that because at the start of this Tour de France I told you that I’m not here with a team that’s built around my sprint — there’s a different tactic this year. But what my team did today was a 160km sprint train.”

Not only did Sagan win the stage, he also picked up the intermediate sprint and effectively eliminated the rest of the green jersey contenders. He now leads the race for green by nearly 100 points and, if he wasn’t already, he’s now the red-hot favourite to win the points classification come Paris.

But for Sagan and the other fast men, there’s a bit of a wait until the next opportunity for a stage win. Tomorrow we’ll see the cream rise to the top in the first real mountain stage of this year’s Tour de France — a 194km stage that features the Col de Paiheres (15.3km at 8%) and finishes with the Ax 3 Domaines climb (7.8km at 8.2%).

We’re looking forward to it, even if the sprinters aren’t.

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