Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) won the power sprint at the finish above Cherbourg and pulled the race leader's yellow jersey over his world champions' rainbow jersey, but he denied success comes easy to him and took his moment in the spot light to warn his fellow riders about the huge risks they are taking.
Sagan powered to victory atop the short Cote de la Glacerie climb by coming past Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quickstep). It was his fifth stage victory at the Tour de France and gave him the coveted yellow jersey for he first time in his career.
"It's never easy to win. Sometimes it seems easy but it never is. This is the first time in yellow in my career after four years as a pro, so I don't think it's easy to win," Sagan explained in the post-stage press conference reserved for the written press after giving a string of simpler sound bites in television interviews.
“You need luck and also condition. If a lot of things come together, you can do something. If you have bad luck it's very hard to be at the front. I'm trying my best and making sacrifices to do it. But I also just want to ride my bike. I just want to have fun. That's why I make my sacrifices."
Sagan reflected on the often tiny differences between winning and losing and the effect they can have on a rider's career. He actually thought he had finished third on the stage, convinced that two riders were still away when he charged up the Cote de la Glacerie. He firmly believes in destiny.
"If I'd finished second today I wouldn't be here now. Life is life. Life brings me things and I just take them. What can I change? I believe everybody has a destiny that is up in space or somewhere. If I'm here, I'm here," he explained in his unique philosophical style as he grappled to express himself in English.
"Sometimes when you want to go up and win, you have to fall first. I didn't really fall last year, I was always there and finished second, third, etc. I'm very happy what I did last year. I'm just happy to win and have the yellow jersey at the Tour de France."
A call for respect in the peloton
Thanks to his formative years as a mountain bike and cyclo-cross rider, Sagan is one of the best bike handlers in the professional peloton. But even he seems surprised and angered at the risk some teams and riders are taking in this year's Tour de France. He is world champion and now wears the yellow but he dismissed suggestions that he can become a boss of the Tour and convince his fellow riders to take fewer risks.
"It's very hard to enjoy racing on the bike," he lamented.
"When I did my first Tour de France it was a different race. Now everyone rides as if they don't care about life. Last year it was very bad and this year is very bad but it's the riders' decision how they ride. But you never know if you'll be able to continue in the race. Today I'm in yellow but maybe tomorrow I go home, this is the Tour de France.
"In this moment I'm not an important rider in peloton (to change things). Nobody cares. It's as if they lost their brains. I don't know what has happened. There are stupid crashes in the group. Before there was respect; when some did something, they threw bottles at him or beat him with a pump but cycling has lost this."
Several riders again crashed during stage 2. While Sagan and team owner Oleg Tinkov celebrated the team's first ever yellow jersey at the Tour de France, Alberto Contador was left licking his wounds after anther crash and losing 48 seconds on the uphill finish.
Sagan revealed he was with Contador when he crashed.
"I was very close to it. Tony Martin lost his grip because of speed bump. It was a stupid crash," Sagan said, without blaming Martin for what happened.
"If he crashed on my side I would have crashed too. It was just bad luck. I hope that Alberto heals fast. He'll be strong for sure. Other riders will have bad luck too. Forty-eight seconds is not massive amount. I believe that Alberto can still fight for the Tour de France. We're just at the start of the Tour de France."
Defending the yellow jersey
Sagan could now keep the yellow for several days as the Tour de France heads south on flat roads until stage 5 to Le Lioran on Wednesday. With Contador losing 48 seconds, the Tinkoff team could opt to use the team to protect Sagan's yellow jersey instead of focusing on overall victory.
However, Sagan didn't really seem to care if he kept yellow.
"I don't care. If I lose yellow, I have green. If I lose the green jersey I have the rainbow jersey. I'll just try everyday and well see how it goes," he said.
He also played down any expectation for him to win another green jersey.
"We'll see what happens and take the Tour de France day by day. The Tour is very long. You've go to get to finish in the bunch and stay calm because every day in the bunch is crazy. The riders don't care about their lives. It's better to keep calm and see what you can do."