Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was a top pick for the win on the pavé on Sunday's cobbled ninth stage of the Tour de France, but only finished fifth, 19 seconds down on winner John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo). The world champion started the final sector of pavé too far back, he said, and then "it was too late to chase".
What happened when Degenkolb, yellow jersey Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Quick-Step's Yves Lampaert got away on the final section of cobblestones?
"What happened is that they just dropped everybody," Sagan told Cyclingnews, and laughed. "No, well, I didn't go because I was too far back in the group on the last sector of cobbles, and so when they went, it was really hard to get back up to the front, and by then it was too late to chase. I tried to chase them, but without anyone helping me, they just went."
With three kilometres to go, Sagan had worked his way up to the front of the chasing group, and took off with four other riders, but the group had no real chance of taking the win – only of picking up points towards the green jersey.
That jersey is what the Slovakian has his eye on.
"The main goal is to wear the green jersey all the way to Paris. Yeah, that's the main goal," Sagan said, and feels as though he's right on track to accomplish that, too. "For sure, yes. I think I had a very good first week, or first nine days, and I will just try to continue like that."
Sagan currently leads the points ranking with 299 points – 81 points ahead of second-placed Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step) and a huge 167 points ahead of Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) in third place. All three riders have each won two stages so far.
There has been criticism within the peloton of GC riders mixing it up near the front in sprint stages. Did their presence up front make things a little crazier than normal on the cobblestone stage?
"A little bit, yes. I don't know... They're under too much stress, I think, and they make a lot of mistakes. It’s a joke. But I don’t care,” Sagan said, and laughed again.