Peter Sagan came unclipped as he accelerated toward the uphill Tour de France Stage 3 finish. That only compounded the pressure on the pre-stage favorite.
Did it affect the showman Slovakian?
“What is pressure?” Sagan said afterward with a laugh. “I don’t know.”
Sagan, winner of the sprinters’ green jersey at the last five Tours, notched his first stage victory of this year’s Tour de France on Monday.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider emerged from a bunched uphill sprint after a 132-mile stage that began in Belgium, crossed through Luxembourg and into northeastern France.
Sagan took the lead in the final half-mile and held on despite briefly coming off one of his pedals.
Australian Michael Matthews was second in the same time, followed by Ireland’s Dan Martin.
Sagan, now with eight career Tour stage victories at age 27, could very well win several stages in this year’s Tour. But his focus is likely on matching German Erik Zabel‘s record of six sprinters’ titles.
He moved from 15th to third place in the green jersey standings with a 50-point prize for the stage win. Sagan is 16 points behind German Marcel Kittel, the Stage 2 winner and runner-up to Sagan in the 2016 sprinter standings.
Also Monday, Great Britain’s Geraint Thomas retained the yellow jersey as the race leader.
Thomas’ Team Sky mate Chris Froome is still the highest-placed rider eyeing the overall title in three weeks in Paris. Froome, trying to win the Tour for the fourth time in five years, moved from sixth place to second overall, remaining 12 seconds behind Thomas.
American Taylor Phinney gave up the polka-dot jersey for King of the Mountains to countryman and Cannondale–Drapac teammate Nate Brown.
Tuesday’s Stage 4 is a flat, 129-mile trek south from Luxembourg into France. An expected bunch sprint finish should include Germans and Andre Greipel and Kittel as well as Brit Mark Cavendish seeking his 31st career Tour stage win.
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1. Peter Sagan (SVK) — 5:07:19
2. Michael Matthews (AUS) — +:00
3. Dan Martin (IRL) — +:00
4. Greg Van Avermaet (BEL) — :00
5. Alberto Bettiol (ITA) — +:02
1. Geraint Thomas (GBR) — 10:00:31
2. Chris Froome (GBR) — +:12
3. Michael Matthews (AUS) — +:12
4. Peter Sagan (SVK) — +13
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) — +16