Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) finished third in the opening sprint Tour de France near Utah Beach but insisted he was satisfied with the result, knowing that he still has an excellent chance of targeting on Sunday's uphill finish to Cherbourg and so taking the yellow jersey.
Sagan had to fight to follow the lead out trains of his sprint rivals but then kicked clear early to avoid being blocked in on the narrow road that curved slightly in different directions in the final kilometre. He tried to make two sprint efforts and flicked across to the right side to force his rivals into the crosswind blowing from the left. However Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) used his track skills to quickly jump on Sagan's wheel and then Marcel Kittel (Etixx-Quickstep) surged past him, too. Sagan mistakenly left a gap down the barriers and Cavendish stormed through to win. Sagan could only follow to the finish.
"There was a lot of stress in the group for nothing, and then in the final there were the usual guys at the front. Personally I'm very happy with my third place today and it's a nice way to start the race. I didn't have any problems in the finish and I didn't crash - I can be happy with my result. I think my start was okay," Sagan told the media scrum at the Tinkoff bus.
Sagan spoke to the media after speaking to teammate Alberto Contador about his crash injuries. Like everyone in the Tinkoff team, he was relieved that the Spaniard was okay after slipping out at speed on a corner with 79km to go in the stage.
"I was a little bit behind him, maybe 20 positions, so I saw him on the ground. I didn't see the crash," Sagan explained. "He's got a lot of wounds on his back but he hasn't got any fractures. I think he'll be okay."
Sagan and the Tinkoff team head back to their hotel with their minds already focused on Sunday's uphill finish. The short final climb up to Cherbourg-en-Cotentin is steep, narrow and includes a 14 percent section mid-way up the 1.9km climb to the finish. It is also preceded by a smaller, non-categorised climb, the Côte d'Octeville, with 7.5km kilometres to go, before a fast descent to Cherbourg and two left turns before the final climb.
The climb could see the overall contenders fighting for position and even the 10, 6 and 4 second time bonuses awarded to the first three riders over the line. Sagan is likely to be the only sprinter in contention due to his unique ability to handle the climbs and produce finishing speed. Mark Cavendish is not expected to be a contender and so Sagan could snatch the yellow jersey if he is well placed.
However with there is no three-kilometre rule on the stage – where riders are given the same time as other riders if they crash or are delayed. That means Tinkoff will also have to guide Contador to the finish and protect his overall ambitions.
"Tomorrow's sprint is more suited to Peter and if he's strong like today he should be right up there again," directeur sportif Sean Yates explained. "There's no 3km rule, so we'll have to be up there at the end to the line with Alberto."
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