Peter Sagan extended his lead in the points classification with another fourth place finish on stage 5 of the Tour de France and sits third overall, but he, his fans and the bookies expected far more from the Cannondale rider on a stage that played perfectly into his superior bike handling skills.
Heavy rain, greasy roads, mud-covered cobbles and a fierce tailwind conspired to make a brutal, albeit relatively short day for the peloton. Sagan made the front group with eventual stage winner Lars Boom (Belkin) but found himself on the wrong end of a gap created when Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) suffered a puncture on the Hornaing sector of cobbles with 15km to go. Sagan was unable to close the gap, and finished 1:01 down.
"I'm happy because I didn't crash. This is very good. I took some points from the other sprinters, this is also good. But I'm also a little disappointed," Sagan said. "I was at the front, but two cobble sectors before the finish, an Omega rider dropped and we weren't able to close the gap.
"It was my mistake. I'm happy I didn't crash and this is good going forward for my Tour de France."
Sagan was not the only pre-stage favourite to lose out - Fabian Cancellara (Trek) was in the group with Sagan, and was similarly unable to close down the gap, thanks in part to a raging tailwind, and a rampaging Vincenzo Nibali, whose Astana teammate Jakob Fuglsang helped to drive the pace across the final kilometers in the group ahead.
"It was already a situation where I was pulling and when they went everyone was looking at me and Peter (Sagan) to do the work," Cancellara complained.
Sagan heads into the sixth stage with a 44-second deficit to the race leader Nibali, and a 50-point lead in the green jersey competition over Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano). He also leads the best young rider classification by six seconds from Kwiatkowski.