Bora-Hansgrohe leader Peter Sagan finished fifth in the sprint of stage 5 in Châteauroux but, after crashing hard with Caleb Ewan on stage 3 in Pontivy, the Slovakian is satisfied with the result and happy to still be in the Tour de France and still in the fight for the green jersey.
The 160km stage from Tours to Chateauroux was Sagan's 50th race day of 2021 after already riding the Giro d'Italia, where he won a stage and the cyclamen-coloured points jersey.
He was forced to restart his pre-season training from zero after catching COVID-19 at a personal training camp in February but still came good in the early season, winning a stage at the Volta a Catalunya and then the Tour de Romandie, even if his limited Classics campaign was not a success.
"I'm still here. I was at the Giro and now I'm at the Tour..." Sagan joked to Cyclingnews and La Gazzetta dello Sport after the stage.
"I haven't won a stage yet but I've been up there and I'm just happy to still be in the thick of the action considering what happened on stage 3.
"My knee is still causing me problems but I'm feeling better and hope I can be back to 100 per cent soon. I'm not worried about reaching Paris or anything, I just want to be back to my very best."
Sagan is currently seventh in the points classification. Mark Cavendish wears the green leader's jersey and has 148 points after his second stage win. Sagan has 72 points but is still in the game, with plenty of racing and sprinting to come before Paris.
"I'm still in the hunt for the green jersey at the Tour de France," Sagan made clear.
"We're only at the sixth stage, even if it feels we've been racing for two weeks. Nothing is lost for now and we've still got to climb into the mountains.
"My biggest rivals for green like Michael Matthews and Sonny Colbrelli are still up there and riding well too, but they're within reach. We'll see what happens after the Alps and on the flat stages in the south next week."
Sagan has contested every possible intermediate sprint in pursuit of points. During stage 6 clashed with Cavendish's leadout man Michael Mørkøv in the sprint to the line in Luçay-le-Mâle after 104km but still scored eight points, one place behind Cavendish.
"I told Mørkøv what I thought of what he did and I think he understood," Sagan said, never one to mince his words but not one to bear grudges either.
He and Cavendish are not best of friends after their crash at the 2017 Tour de France where Sagan's elbow flayed outwards in a sprint in Vittel leaving Cavendish with nowhere to go. The Manxman crashed into the barriers, fracturing his shoulder and Sagan was disqualified from the Tour only later to be cleared of wrongdoing by the UCI after threats of legal action.
Both Sagan and Cavendish remain entrenched in their views on the incident, the tension damaging any possible friendship, yet there are signs their relationship is improving as their reciprocal respect for their success returns.
Sagan sportingly congratulated Cavendish after his first win in Fougères with a fist pump and is keen to consider the 2017 incident part of their sprinting past.
"I offered my hand to congratulate him as I usually do to every winner. I've got nothing against him," Sagan explained.
"I think what happened back in 2017 is still on his mind, not mine. I've moved on and I'm happy for him that he's won."
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