Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) found solace and some kind of satisfaction in a familiar place after stage 3 through the champagne vines of the Tour de France, with a return to the podium to pull on the green points jersey, cancelling any disappointment about finishing fifth behind a dominant Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep).
Sagan finished fourth in the reduced group sprint up to the finish on the Epernay hillside, 26 seconds behind Alaphilippe but better than many of the overall contenders who got stuck in the fight for position and lost time. Only Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) were able to mix it up with the power finishers on the rise to the finish, gaining five seconds on Geraint Thomas and everyone else.
With the nine points he took at the intermediate sprint and 17 at the finish, Sagan lifted his points total to 76, enough to take the green jersey from stage 1 winner Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma), who lost contact in the climbs and also lost his leader's yellow jersey to Alaphilippe.
Sagan realised he was in green a few seconds after crossing the line and quickly turned around to head to the Tour de France podium area that has become a second home every July for the past seven years.
"I'm happy to be in green. I can't complain. Now I'll try to keep it. I want to keep it," Sagan said after walking the line of post-race interviews behind the podium like a veteran and a six-time winner of the green jersey.
There was little sense of disappointment in Sagan's voice.
"I felt good today. It's OK not to win. One day can be good and then next bad. I didn't crash, I was fifth, so I can't complain.
"Julian is strong. I thought he'd save his effort fort the last climb but well, he attacked us and surprised everyone. He did a nice race.
"It was a very, very hard stage today, 215km long, with very high speed from the start and four categorised climbs. The last two were really tough while the finishing ramp, although not categorised, was tough after a long and strenuous day in the saddle."
Stage 4 to Nancy is expected to be a day for the pure sprinters and will give Sagan a chance to finally win a stage in this year's Tour de France after taking second on stage 1 and fifth on stage 3.
"Maybe, who knows? We'll see," he said, sticking to his 'live-in-the-moment' philosophy.
"I'm looking forward to the next stages, but I'm taking it day by day… Day by day. The Tour de France is still long."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.