A second straight day in the breakaway to claim maximum points in the intermediate sprint and fifth place on the line in Valance for Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) after a "crazy" sprint effectively sealed a fourth straight Tour de France points classification victory.
Unable to stop Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) from claiming a third stage of this year’s race and 50 points for first across the line, Sagan's breakaway efforts to pursue intermediate sprint points has been akin to the tactics successfully employed by Thor Hushovd at the 2009 Tour. As it stands, Sagan now leads Greipel in the points classification by 360 to 316 points having started the day on 322 and 261 points respectively while Greipel leads the stage win count 3-0.
In post-race comments, Sagan repeatedly stated that the only way to win is to try, try, and try again with stage victory still a major objective at the race despite the green jersey all but his.
"I try every day, what can I do? Everyday I am trying. If God wants me to win, I win but otherwise I come second, third…" he said of his10th top-five finish in the 2015 Tour. "I tried but it’s not easy. You try and imagine if you are me, do have an answer? [I feel] very good, what can I do? I am trying. If you want something, you have to try."
In a chaotic fast finish on the Boulevard John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Valence, Sagan found himself boxed in for the final 250 metre straight having incurred the wrath of Europcar’s Bryan Coquard for the same move just meters beforehand.
"In the finish, everybody including me was blocking me, after Coquard was angry with me in the finish. I told him ‘what can I do? I go on the front and you are on the right side of the road where I want to go, no?’ It’s normal in the sprint," he said. "After, [Alexander] Kristoff also went on the right side and I stopped pedalling for one moment in the sprint but this is the sprint.
Tinkoff-Saxo’s team owner, Oleg Tinkov, who was riding ahead of the race on the course today, has repeatedly criticised Sagan throughout the season, with the 25-year-old yet to land a big win in Europe after his multimillion euro move to the team at the end of last season. After the stage, there was a new angle to Tinkov’s post-race tweeting with praise for his galactico.
"@petosagan is the strongest rider of this Tour de France, not Chris Froome. iMHO. @tinkoff_saxo and I are proud of him," Tinkov tweeted.
For Sagan, a fourth green jersey would see him pull level with Sean Kelly, second on the honours list with Erik Zabel’s six tainted victories still officially a Tour de France record. While ahead of the Tour, Sagan was diplomatic in responses to whether he was targeting the green jersey or riding in support of Alberto Contador’s quest for the Giro d’Italia-Tour double, Sagan made it clear that the challenge set by ASO in adjusting the allocation of points for stage finishes has made him hungrier for the victory.
"Ah for sure yeah because it was my big objective here in Tour de France where they changed the rules and all the stuff. If I can win another green jersey, it will be nice," he added.
Sagan’s quest for stage victory on Monday has been dealt a blow with sport director Sean Yates to serve a one-day suspension from the race after a mid-stage altercation saw a bidon thrown at a TV camera bike that was impeding a bike change. Yates becomes the second sports director to serve a ban at the race after Etixx-QuickStep’s Davide Brammatti was caught celebrating Tony Martin’s stage win sans seatbelt.
"With the motorbike, when I changed the bike, the moto was blocking the car," Sagan said of what led to the bidon incident. "They wanted to give me the bike but I showed the video camera, ‘go in front of me, go in front.’ And he just stopped and blocked the car."