Italian team takes control on stage 7
When Peter Sagan (Cannondale) crossed the finish line of stage 7 of the Tour de France in Albi today, there was no showboating victory salute.
Instead, he tugged at his jersey and acknowledged his team’s critical contribution to the win. The 23-year-old Slovakian said he had a sprint train today – and one that had lasted 160km.
The win breaks a run of four lesser podium spots in this Tour, and deals a powerful blow to rivals’ hopes of wresting the green jersey from his shoulders.
"I am very happy with what the team did today and without them it would have been impossible for me to get the result," he said before hitting out at internet critics who, he said, speculated that the Cannondale sprint train was weak compared to the Lotto-Belisol and Omega Pharma-QuickStep formations.
"At the beginning of this Tour I told everybody that I’m not here with a team that is built around me to launch me in a sprint. We have a different tactic this year and what my team did today was a sprint train, but it was for 160km."
The 206km between Montpellier to Albi was a classic Tour stage through somnolent, heat-weary countryside of south west France. The Italian team’s strategy, Sagan revealed, had been to jettison green jersey rivals such as Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish on the Col de la Croix de Mounis and take maximum points at the intermediate sprint in Viane Pierre-Segade – a strategy Sagan fulfilled to the letter.
He added: "We aimed to drop the other sprinters at the intermediate sprint. After that we saw there was a break and so my teammates came and asked me why we didn’t carry on – maybe you can win the stage, they said."
And so the Cannondale squad maintained the relentless pace-setting until chance of the grupetto containing Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano) was eliminated with less than 40km to go.
Despite John Degenkolb’s (Argos Shimano) spirited charge through a tiny gap in the final metres in Albi, Sagan ended the day with a victory that goes a long way to closing down the green jersey ambitions of his rivals.
The win moves him nearly 100 points clear in the competition and means even if nearest rival Greipel won two stages and the Slovakian failed to take a single point, he would still hold the jersey with two thirds of the race still to come.
Despite the extended lead, Sagan insists it is still too early to think about taking the green jersey.
"Today the intention was to take a few points and we got more than we expected this morning. The Tour is very long and we still have 14 stages to go. Anything can happen so I think it’s too early to have a strategy. We go day by day."
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Tour de France
Tour de France 2013