Peter Sagan sportingly accepted defeat in the opening sprint of the Tour de France, happy to have avoided the late crash that saw several overall contenders lose time, as he survived the hectic final kilometre that include a left turn and then a descent before a 300-metre kick up to the finish line.
The world champion does not ask his teammates to give him a lead-out but likes to be protected before doing his own thing in the final kilometre. Bora-Hansgrohe led the peloton with Marcus Burghardt, Daniel Oss and Lukas Postlberger dropping Sagan off just where he wanted, while also protecting Rafal Majka, who avoided the crashes and so gained time on Chris Froome, and many of his overall rivals.
As so often is the case, Sagan was in the right place at the right time after the left turn. He was tucked on eventual winner Fernando Gaviria's wheel and followed the Colombian even as other riders tried to start the sprint early. He stayed on Garviria's wheel as the road kicked upwards, bounced past several riders and then tried to come up on his right. Gaviria was too far ahead and so as the line approached, he eased up and accepted defeat.
After the line Sagan was quick to shake Gaviria's hand.
"I was up there but the best rider won today," Sagan told Cyclingnews as he left anti-doping and headed to the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus.
"Fernando was at the front and did a strong sprint. I was second and I'm happy with that. We didn't crash, other riders did. Now we'll see what happens tomorrow."
Sagan scored 30 points with his second place in the sprint and took seven points thanks to ninth place in the intermediate sprint. He is second in the points classification, behind Gaviria, who has 63 points but within touch of his green-jersey rival.
Sagan should in theory wear the green jersey during stage 2 to La-Roche-sur-Yon because Gaviria will wear the race leader's yellow jersey. However according to L'Equipe, as per traditional with the world champion, he has been given the option to stay in his rainbow jersey. Kittel will apparently wear green during stage 2 after finishing third on Saturday.
Sagan is four seconds down in the general classification but his form and performance in the sprint indicates he could win sprints and even pull on the yellow jersey in the days to come.
"For now, my cards are looking very good," he said confidently.
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