Oleg Tinkov, owner of the Tinkoff-Saxo squad, has called Peter Sagan the "strongest rider in the Tour de France" after the green-jersey leader finished second for the fifth time in this year's event, and 16th time during his career.
An attack on the descent of the Col de Manse in pursuit of Ruben Plaza (Lampre-Merida) proved futile in the search for stage 16 victory but the aggressive tactics of Sagan saw the 25-year-old claim 45 more points in the green jersey competition and win the day’s most aggressive rider award for a second straight day.
"I knew the descent from two years ago and from seeing it on television with the Beloki crash," Sagan said of the incident in 2003 that saw Lance Armstrong forced off the road and into a field before re-join the road. "I was again very close. I'm glad because I was going for second place… No, I'm joking. I really don't know what I should do better. I tried everything. I knew I had to try as hard as I could in the descent, even if it meant dying."
As Sagan approached the line, 30 seconds down on Plaza, he took his hands off the bars and thumped his chest, explaining that he and his teammates had watched The Wolf of Wall Street and he was recreating a scene from the film to demonstrate his pride in performance during the 201km stage.
"I am proud for what I have, everybody watching me, everybody looking at what I do. Maybe unlucky, but for me, I am proud because I think everybody is scared of me and nobody wants to work with me, they want to be with me in the break, after no one wants to work with me," he said. "They are thinking I do everything but I don't know, it's cycling…
"I have very good friends in the group. [If] Everybody stay with me then it's very hard to beat everybody, but it's ok," he added on another runner's up position.
In the mix zone after the podium protocols, an ebullient Sagan called out ‘Hello Froomey', while the riders in the green and yellow jerseys enjoyed a brief moment of banter in between interviews, with Sagan telling Froome to flip his cap down before the duo went their separate ways.
After the exchange, Sagan was asked why he went into the breakaway for a third straight day, replying because "I have big balls" leaving the interviewer stunned before letting out a nervous laugh and continuing on.
Sagan may have been enjoying the questions from the media, explaining that the result "is motivation" to continue trying, but Tinkov wasn't as chipper in his post-stage comments.
"I think I am more disappointed than Peter because Peter looks happy," Tinkov said in Gap. "I look disappointed for him. I think Peter is the strongest rider of this Tour de France, for me he is stronger than Chris Froome, and he deserves at least one win."
With a fourth green jersey all but assured in Paris, and possibly the most aggressive rider prize as well, Sagan expects the efforts of his breakaway adventures to catch up with him. The Slovakian will inevitably take a back seat to overall contender Alberto Contador as the race heads into the Alps. The focus will be to try and wrestle the yellow jersey off of Froome’s shoulders.
"It will be a very hard next four days. I think the invoice from these three stages will come in the next four days," Sagan said. "I have to pay for what I did."
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