Another Tour de France stage win for Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) means a second Zwift Rider of the Day award. Possibly the best sprinter in the race even before the mass withdrawals of the Alps, he owns that title now, outclassing his remaining rivals on stage 13 in Valence.
Like several stages of the 2018 Tour, today's transition stage was less thrill ride, more snooze cruise. A standard flat stage following the standard formula of the break going away with no real chance of victory before the sprinter's teams reel them back before the finish. Even with the two Lottos, Dimension Data and Quick-Step Floors without their top sprinters to work for, enough remain that the end-stage scenario of stage 13 was never in doubt.
BMC Racing's Michael Schär, one of the contender's for this award, gave the break something of a stay of execution, attacking with 22km to go as his breakmates were caught. His efforts brought him the day's combativity award, with the Swiss rider dangling around 20 seconds out front until being caught at the 6km mark.
But back to Sagan, and the world champion was surfing trains again, notably getting prime position on the wheel of European champion Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates) in the final kilometre. After Philippe Gilbert's (Quick-Step Floors) late attack was shut down and Groupama-FDJ's lead-out man Jacopo Guarnieri peeled off, it was a showdown between Sagan, Kristoff and Arnaud Démare, also of Groupama-FDJ.
Démare led the charge for the line, sprinting from 230 metres out, with Kristoff hitting the wind with 150 metres to go. Sagan jumped out from Norwegian's wheel soon after, pulling alongside before taking win number three of the race and bolstering his green jersey lead to a massive 228 points.
Already tied for 21st in Tour history for stages won, Sagan could be up to 14th, tied with Philippe Thys and Louis Trousselier by the end of the race. Doing that with wins on stage 18 to Pau and the final stage in Paris, both of which he's certainly the favourite for, would bring his career Tour win total to 13.
"It's fantastic," Sagan said after the finish. "It was a flat stage, and everyone could recover a bit in the group. I think everyone was happy in the bunch to have a relaxed stage.
"I'm very happy to win today. It's very nice for me, and thanks to all my teammates because they did a very good job. I thought I'd left it a little bit late - I was a little bit behind in the last 600 metres, then on the last turn I tried to bring myself up to the front. After that I stayed on the wheel of Kristoff and I'm very happy to beat him."
Daniel Ostanek: Sure, three tough stages in the Alps have shallowed the incredibly strong sprint field of this Tour de France to more of a puddle, with Gaviria, Greipel, Cavendish, Kittel and Groenewegen all leaving the race. There was no chance of Sagan dropping out though, not with the green jersey on his back.
The Slovak finished comfortably within the time limit each day, living on to win yet again. He's clearly the strongest sprinter left in the race, and with two sprint stages left it looks like he'll only add to his points classification lead - his current 228 point lead (with eight stages remaining, mind) is only 14 short of his record winning margin in 2016.
On Thursday's stage 12 you picked LottoNL-Jumbo's Steven Kruijswijk as your Zwift Rider of the Day. The Dutchman's 70km solo attack from the early break saw him fall just 3km short of a victory on the 'Dutch Mountain' of Alpe d'Huez, caught as the GC favourites began to attack one another.
You can vote for stage 13's Rider of the Day below. We will announce the readers' poll winner after Saturday's stage 14.
Who's your pick for Zwift Rider of the Day on stage 13 of the #TDF2018 ? Choose from Sagan's third win, Schär's combativity, Gilbert's late attack, or Kristoff's first podium.— Cyclingnews.com (@Cyclingnewsfeed) July 20, 2018