Peter Sagan (Cannondale) extended his points classification lead in the Tour de France on Sunday, taking full advantage of his position in the early breakaway and giving the crowds something extra to cheer during stage 15.
Sagan was stalked by Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) as the maillot vert neared the intermediate sprint point with 34km left before the Mont Ventoux summit, but in the end the Slovakian was never seriously challenged for the 20 points on offer for first across the line. Sagan now holds a 99-point advantage over nearest rival for the green jersey, Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step) with André Greipel (Lotto Belisol) another 55 points in arrears.
The breakaway's maximum gap of seven minutes was eventually whittled down by the blisteringly-fast pace of the peloton, with Sagan struggling to keep up with his breakaway companions at the foot of the Ventoux climb. The 23-year-old however had hoped for a slightly better outcome.
"I took the points I wanted, and I'm happy, but I thought the peloton wouldn't chase us so hard," said Sagan. "I hoped to arrive at the foot of Mont Ventoux with enough time to have a chance to finish the stage in top 15 and so take other points. We were a well-equipped group but some teams were left out from the breakaway and didn't give us room. The final climb? Really hard, I'm happy to rest and recover tomorrow. The third week will be really hard."
While Sagan usually reserves a wheelie for when he crosses the finish line, as he did when he won Gent-Wevelgem earlier this season, he saw an opportunity on Sunday that couldn't be missed. Sagan lifted his front wheel just as he was caught by the peloton and saluted to the television camera.
"I always said that cycling is passion and fun, both in practice and when you watch it. While I was waiting the group, people encouraged and clapped their hands to me: I wanted to dedicate the wheelie to them to thank them for their support."