Peter Sagan’s aggression on the long road to Mende on stage 14 of the Tour de France was aimed at extending his lead at the head of the points classification but it almost yielded the unexpected dividend of a stage victory to boot.
From the outset, Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) would have earmarked the Tour’s four-day trek through the Massif Central as ideal terrain to place a down payment on a fourth consecutive green jersey in Paris. Second place in Rodez on stage 13 handed the Tinkoff-Saxo man a 24-point lead over André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and he looked to extend that buffer by infiltrating the break in the frantic opening hour of racing on Saturday.
Sagan was a permanent fixture off the front as various breakaway groups formed and splintered during the early exchanges, and that enterprise was rewarded with a facile victory in the intermediate sprint at Millau after 78 kilometres. Rather than sit up, Sagan persisted in his efforts and remained part of the 20-man break that would ultimately contest the demanding finale at Mende.
The final haul up the Côte de la Croix Neuve (the so-called Montée Laurent Jalabert) has pitches of 11 percent but the road flattens out ahead of the 1.5 kilometre run from the summit to the finish at Mende’s airstrip.