Try as he might, victory seems to be elusive for Cannondale's Peter Sagan at the 2014 Tour de France. The Slovakian came as close as he has so far, on stage 7 to Nancy, but a photo finish gave the win to Omega Pharma-QuickStep's Matteo Trentin by the slimmest of margins.
Sagan went on the attack in the closing kilometres – perhaps haunted by letting Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) go on stage 2. He took BMC's Greg Van Avermaet with him and the pair built up a good gap, but they were caught in the finishing straight. Sagan still had the legs to challenge for the sprint, but he had to settle for another runner-up position.
"The first thing I want say is thanks to all my teammates for the amazing work they did for the entire day to put me in the condition to win," Sagan said at the finish. "I tried to attack after the last climb with Van Avermaet and when I saw the group coming fast I just waited for the sprint. I tried to do my best in the sprint. It was close but it was not enough."
Sagan's second place makes him the first rider since Charles Pélissier in 1930 to finish in the top five in the first seven individual stages. It is a mere demonstration as to why he has been so difficult to beat over three years in the points classification – the jersey awarded for the most consistent rider. Sagan now holds a 113 point advantage over Bryan Coquard (Europcar), one that is unlikely to be overhauled.
Extending his lead in the green jersey competition is an added bonus for Sagan, but he would swap it for a stage win. "When I win, many people say that for me it's easy to do it but today's stage proves that it's always hard being the first," said Sagan.
"Since the first stage, every day I'm among the main contenders and now I wear the green jersey with a good advantage. This is a positive aspect, but I want something more. I know there will be other chances until Paris and I think that my day will arrive."
The peloton heads into the Vosges mountains for the next three days, before the first rest day. Sagan's next chance comes on stage 11, where the four climbs near the finish will whittle out the pure sprinters.