The world champion was ushered into the final kilometre with teammate Daniel Oss on the front of the bunch, but with 300 metres to go Sonny Colbrelli launched his winning sprint. The Bahrain-Merida rider's acceleration up the left side of the road brought Michael Albasini (Mitchelton-Scott) and Sagan – briefly – with him, before Sagan switched to Fernando Gaviria's wheel as the line approached.
Colbrelli, Sagan, and Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) then converged on the line, with Sagan caught in the middle. Despite the faster finish, the Bora rider was unable to squeeze between his two rivals, with Gaviria finishing second for the second consecutive stage.
When Sagan appeared at the foot of the Bora team bus, he was philosophical in defeat and congratulated Colbrelli on his win.
"In the sprint, I didn't push for the line, but Sonny did a really good sprint, and from very long. Also, Fernando was there. In the end, it finished how it finished, but that's OK. It wasn't that technical today, it was OK. The last climb we went hard and the wet roads made it difficult, but from there it was a straight line to the finish," Sagan told Cyclingnews.
"After the sprint you can always analyse your race and talk if there's mistakes. If you win, everything is OK, and if you lose, you can analyse but it's not about that. Every sprint is a different story. I did my best."
Sagan, who won his 16th Tour de Suisse stage 24 hours earlier, also attacked on the final climb of today's stage. His move was more of a test than a full-blown assault, as he tried to see if a small group would accompany him over the top of the summit before the final dash to the line. However, when Sagan turned around near the top of the climb he could see that almost all of the remaining riders were glued to his wheel. He of course relented and waited for the sprint.
"It was OK out there," he said. "I tried on the climb but then I saw that there were a lot of riders with me in the group, so I went for the sprint. It wasn't the plan to go on the climb; I never plan. It was already at the top of the climb when I went and there were a lot of riders on my wheel, so I decided to stop."
Despite missing out on the win, Sagan has appeared relaxed this week. After drawing blanks at the Tour of California in May, he remained in the US for a training camp before returning to Europe on the eve of the Tour de Suisse. He spent just three days at home with his young family before Saturday's team time trial.
With a win under his belt earlier in the race – his first victory since Paris-Roubaix – he can afford to let the race come to him rather than chase. Tuesday's stage features another climb before the finish with a slightly downhill final kilometre. Depending on how the GC riders tackle the final ascent, Sagan could once again be in contention.
"I'm happy with my form. One win. There's no problem," he said before signing autographs and returning to the bus.
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