As expected young super talent Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) didn’t take very long before powering to his first win in his Tour de France debut. One day after his somewhat disappointing prologue in Liège, the 22-year-old Slovak set things straight by sprinting to the victory in the first road stage, a 198km long loop from Liège to the neighbouring town of Seraing.
“I’m very happy that I won today and it was more special because of the bad luck I had yesterday in the prologue,” Sagan said. During the prologue, Sagan went fast through a roundabout but was unable to hold the line and started slipping, clicking his foot out of the pedal and coming to a near stop. “Yesterday I was not feeling good and it wasn’t a parcours for me. I’m happy I didn’t crash. In Switzerland it was a completely different course that went up and down. Here it suited the real specialists like Wiggins and Cancellara.”
On Sunday, Sagan was the only rider who was able to keep up with race leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) on the steepest part of the 3km long finishing climb, the Côte de Seraing. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) bridged up a little later but the Norwegian had nothing left for the sprint. Sagan easily won the sprint, with the peloton following on the trio’s heels.
“Today I felt better than yesterday. I’m very happy that I have won,” Sagan said. When crossing the line Sagan didn’t throw his arms in the air as a rider traditionally does but made a bodybuilder-like pose. “After the Tour de Suisse I returned home to recover a bit. I talked with my friends about what I would do if I won and that was it.”
It turns out that Sagan is the youngest rider – he is 22 years and 157 days old – to win a stage in the Tour de France since Lance Armstrong won the stage in Verdun at the tender age of 21 and 296 days back in 1993. There are some within the Liquigas set-up who believe Sagan can follow in the American’s footsteps. “Did they say that? I would love to but I’m still at the beginning of my career. It’s too early to tell what’s possible and we’ll see if I can get a career like him.”
Sunday’s stage wasn’t quite a spectacular one until the speed went up brutally in the peloton inside the final 30 kilometres. There were some crashes and eventually the peloton headed at full speed towards the Côte de Seraing. Sagan described what he went through in those hectic kilometres.
“It was a tricky finale with lots of roundabouts and dangerous corners. Thanks to Nibali I was still up front in the last kilometre. In the last climb it was very hard. When Chavanel attacked I realized I had to follow him,” Sagan said. “Then I ended up on the wheel of Cancellara. Before the day’s stage I spoke with my team manager and we said that Fabian Cancellara was the right person to follow. He is in very good condition right now,” Sagan said. “I’m sorry for Fabian that I didn’t take a pull but he was very strong.”
It wasn’t the first time Sagan rode the finale of a big race. Despite his tender age Sagan won three stages during his debut in the Vuelta a España, adding those to his already high number of wins in stage races like Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie, Tour of Poland, and a staggering eight stages in the Tour of California. Sagan didn’t expect to be impressed by the Tour de France but on Sunday he admitted that it wasn’t quite as he had anticipated.
“It’s not a race like the other ones, especially with the big crowds along the course and media at the finish. There’s much more stress in the peloton when heading towards the finish because everybody wants to be in front. I have 19 more stages to discover what the Tour is about.”