Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins another Tour de France stage in sprinters’ absence

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VALENCE, France (AP) — Peter Sagan won his third stage of this Tour de France, while Geraint Thomas kept the overall lead over teammate Chris Froome on Friday.

World champion Sagan won a sprint finish by a wheel length to claim Stage 13, a 105-mile leg from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence in less than four hours.

After overzealous fans marred Thomas’ win on Thursday atop the Alpe d’Huez, the otherwise complete calm of Friday’s leg was briefly disturbed by a man on the roadside who tossed a smoke bomb into the center of the peloton as it passed by with 16 kilometers left.

Besides spitting out yellow smoke, the bomb appeared to do no harm.

Thomas took charge of the race with impressive wins atop summit finishes on the previous two days.

The Welsh rider for Sky had no trouble maintaining his advantage of 1 minute, 39 second over defending champion Froome on the flat ride that came after three grueling days in the Alps.

Both Team Sky riders finished safely in the pack with their top rivals.

Tom Dumoulin stayed third overall at 1:50 behind. Primoz Roglic was fourth at 2:46, and Romain Bardet was fifth at 3:07 back.

Sagan timed his move perfectly, charging forward to overtake runner-up Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare, who finished third, at the finish line.

The Slovakian’s 11th career Tour victory came after he dominated sprints at the end of Stages 2 and 5.

This time, Sagan was racing against a field of top sprinters who had been greatly depleted by the mountains.

Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, who both won two stages on this Tour, along with Andre Greipel all abandoned the race on Thursday, while 30-stage winner Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel failed to make the time cut on Wednesday.

On Thursday’s action-packed ascent up Alpe d’Huez, contender Vincenzo Nibali was forced to abandon the race after he broke a vertebra when knocked to the ground by a police motorbike tasked with keeping back the pressing fans (video here).

Froome also was pushed hard in the back by a spectator, and Thomas was booed on the podium by fans who are skeptical of Froome’s clearance from doping allegation just before the Tour’s start.

Michael Schaer of BMC was the last rider of a four-man breakaway to be reeled in with 6K left.

The Tour continues Saturday with a hilly stage 14, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

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Peter Sagan celebrates green jersey record with Tour de France stage win

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Slovakian Peter Sagan won his 10th career Tour de France stage on the day he wore the green sprinter’s jersey for a record 89th time in Tour history.

Sagan, the three-time world road race champion, beat Italian Sonny Colbrelli to the uphill finish of stage five on Wednesday. It’s Sagan’s second stage win of this year’s Tour.

“It was a little bit lucky because Colbrelli was coming close again,” said Sagan, who also relegated Colbrelli to runner-up in stage two Sunday.

German Erik Zabel wore the green jersey as the top sprinter 88 times in the 1990s and 2000s as he won a record six points classifications, according to Gracenote. Sagan will match Zabel’s record six titles if he’s in green in Paris on July 29.

In the yellow jersey race, Belgian Greg Van Avermaet increased his overall standings lead from zero to two seconds by earning a time bonus with seven miles left on Wednesday.

But Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, mistimed his sprint, helping allow Sagan to win.

“I don’t know if he did it on purpose or if he wanted to drop everybody but I have to say thanks,” Sagan said.

After a move from Philippe Gilbert, Van Avermaet accelerated out of the final turn with 300 meters to go but couldn’t maintain his pace.

“I tried to win the stage, but it was pretty complicated,” Van Avermaet said. “Phil went early, and he’s still pretty close on GC (general classification) so I couldn’t let him go. I think I went too early in the sprint. I thought the corner was closer to the finish than it really was.”

Van Avermaet, the Rio Olympic road race champion, had been tied with BMC teammate Tejay van Garderen for the overall race lead, but van Garderen did not become the second (or sixth) American to wear the yellow jersey due to a tiebreaker.

Van Avermaet is expected to cede the lead in upcoming cobblestone or mountain stages. He hopes the man to take it is BMC team leader Richie Porte.

Porte and the rest of the overall contenders for the title finished in the same time with the peloton on Wednesday,

The Tour de France continues Thursday with stage six, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Peter Sagan wins Tour de France stage 2 by a nose (video)

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LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (AP) — World champion Peter Sagan won a sprint finish to claim the second stage of the Tour de France and the race’s overall lead on Sunday, while Chris Froome had a calmer ride after his tumble in the first leg.

Sagan won the mostly flat 113.4-mile leg from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon in just over four hours. The Slovakian rider for Bora-Hansgrohe edged Sonny Colbrelli at the finish line after a short uphill push.

“It was really a hard sprint,” Sagan said. “It was climbing a little bit in a headwind and already the last five kilometers were up and down. It was a mess.”

Sagan, the three-time reigning world champion, came up short in the opening stage’s sprint when he crossed second behind Fernando Gaviria, who won on his Tour debut.

The second stage looked like it would feature another duel between the veteran Sagan and new star Gaviria.

But Gaviria was involved in a group pileup inside the three-kilometer zone that neutralizes the impact of accidents and could do nothing to stop Sagan from claiming a six-second overall lead and the yellow jersey.

Sagan powered to the front of a group of about a dozen sprinters hunting the victory, reaching a speed of 57.6 kph on the final 500 meters on his way to the finish line. With Colbrelli about to catch him, Sagan thrust forward to ensure victory.

“It’s a perfect day,” Sagan said. “I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong.”

The Tour de France continues Monday with a team time trial, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold (full broadcast schedule here).

TOUR DE FRANCE: StandingsTV Schedule | Riders to Watch

A year ago, Sagan was kicked out of the Tour after race organizers ruled he caused a crash that broke the shoulder blade of Mark Cavendish in a sprint finish to end Stage 4.

The 28-year-old Sagan said this win means that “I’m really back” following his disqualification from the 2017 Tour.

It was his ninth career win at cycling’s biggest event.

Froome, who fell into a ditch near the end of Saturday’s opening stage, arrived safely with most of the peloton.

Froome is 1:07 behind Sagan’s leading time as he pursues a fifth Tour title. Despite being cleared of doping allegations on Monday, some skeptical fans have jeered the Kenyan-born British rider since his Sky team arrived in France.

The Tour remains in western France for Stage 3 on Monday with its first team time trial since 2015. The 35.5-kilometer loop starts and finishes in Cholet.

Title contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet are 16 seconds behind Sagan, giving them an early advantage over Froome.

BMC’s Richie Porte is level with Froome with their respective teams looking to do well on the team time trial.

Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is 1:31 back after he lost time following the puncture of both his tires near the end of Stage 1.

After the first stage that hugged the Atlantic coast, the race rolled inland through green pastures, forest groves and yellow wheat fields baked by the summer sun.

Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie), Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) set off on a breakaway after the start, but the 39-year-old Chavanel soon shed the other two in his record 18th Tour participation.

Chavanel, who has said this will be his last Tour, soaked up applause from French fans on his solo run, and he even had time to raise his arms in celebration as he passed through the crowds that lined the road midway through the stage. He was absorbed by the peloton with 13K left.

Ethiopia’s Tsgabu Grmay became the first rider to abandon the race. His Trek-Segafredo team said he was suffering “intense abdominal pain.”

Astana climber Luis Leon Sanchez later called it quits after he fell and bloodied his left arm.

The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.

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