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Peter Sagan not convinced by symbolic protest on rider safety at Tour de France

Tour de France 2021 108th Edition 3rd stage Lorient Pontivy 1829 km 28062021 Crash Injury Peter Sagan SVK Bora Hansgrohe Caleb Ewan AUS Lotto Soudal photo Kei TsujiBettiniPhoto2021
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) after picking himself up following a hard stage 3 crash (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Most of the Tour de France riders were in favour of a symbolic protest about safety during the early kilometres of the stage to Fourgères, however, Peter Sagan’s opinion stood out as more pragmatic and despondent. The Bora-Hansgrohe sprinter questioned if anything was likely to change unless riders start to protect each other.

Sagan – a former three-time world champion and arguably one of the most well-known riders in professional cycling – has rarely spoken out for the wider good of the peloton. He was not at the front of the protest when André Greipel (Israel Start–Up Nation) slowed the riders to spark the symbolic one-minute stop out on the road during stage 4 and subsequent go slow for around ten kilometres.

“I ask myself what the protests will change. We have to change our mindset, otherwise it will only get worse,” Sagan said. “We’re racing and so I think that’s a factor, we’re rivals. I don’t know who [is] to blame for the crashes.

“Nothing is going to change," said Sagan. "In the last ten years, it’s just getting worse and worse. Nobody is taking responsibility. I ask where the CPA is in all of this? They’re our organisation but what are they doing? The CPA has to listen to the riders and speak to the UCI and find some solutions.” 

Stage 1 and 3 of this year’s Tour de France were both marred by terrible crashes. A number of riders have been injured in the incidents and the likes of Caleb Ewan (Lotto Soudal) and Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) are out of the race while Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is likely out of the battle for overall victory due to his injuries.

Sagan, who is considered one of the best bike handlers in the peloton and rarely crashes, was also caught. He came down in a crash with Ewan at the end of stage 3, with the Australian's touch of wheels leaving him with a broken collarbone after he hit the road at over 70km/h. Sagan hurt his right knee and thigh, suffering lots of road rash and bruising when he came down within sight of the finish line in Pontivy.  

Sagan sportingly went to check on Ewan before the start of stage 4. He then went on to finish fifth behind Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-QuickStep), congratulating the resurgent sprinter on his win beyond the finish line.

The two are not best of friends after their crash at the 2017 Tour de France when Sagan’s elbow flayed outwards in a sprint in Vittel leaving Cavendish with nowhere to go. Cavendish crashed into the barriers, fracturing his shoulder and Sagan was disqualified from the Tour but later cleared of wrongdoing by the UCI.    

This year Sagan remains in the fight for an eighth green jersey, sitting eighth in the competition, with  48 points. Michael Matthews (Bike Exchange) appears to be his biggest rival, with the Australian in third place behind new leader Cavendish, with 78 points.

“It could be better and could be worse. My knee is done and also the side of my leg is really bad,” Sagan said of his injuries before the stage. 

“It was gradually getting better in the final 35km. The team did a fantastic job in keeping me in position in the tricky part, especially Nils [Politt] and Daniel [Oss],” he later explained.

It was a hectic final five kilometres, with the chase on to close down the gap to Lotto Soudal's Brent van Moer, who held out till the final moment of the stage and was only engulfed by the charge of the sprinters in the final 200 metres.

"I found myself a bit out of position and didn't have enough time to recover positions in the last kilometre, so I started my sprint from further back. However, it was a good effort," said Sagan.

“I feel optimistic about the upcoming days and I will obviously keep fighting."

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