UCI World Champion Peter Sagan took his first win of this year’s Tour de France and even an unclipped pedal in the final sprint wasn’t going to stop the Slovak rider taking the win – his eighth in total. It also marked BORA-hansgrohe’s first win at the Tour de France.
The race finally made its way into France today, with a stage finishing in the north-eastern town of Longwy after a day spent first in Belgium, before moving into Luxembourg and finally France for the final 28km of the 212.5km route.
With the change in countries came a change in weather – the rain that has blighted the first two days holding off for day three. Five categorised climbs dotted today’s stage, giving the KOM contenders a few hills to stretch their legs on. The undulating terrain meant the finale was likely to be contested by the all-rounders – although there was every chance a committed break could last to the finish, or a late attack might take the win.
Two attacks early on in the day became a group of six, and this was the day’s breakaway. With a long way still to go to the finish, the peloton allowed the escape to go up ahead, taking a more leisurely approach to proceedings.
While the break was eager to build their advantage and push on, their lead never broke much more than four minutes, and that fell to 2’30” at the 90km mark, and dropped steadily with the break’s lead down a further minute by the time the race hit the 50km to go point. A three-man attack bridged to the break, giving the escapees renewed vigour, but the strain was beginning to show, and the peloton had really started to chase.
With the catch made at 10km to go, it was just a matter of waiting to see if a late attack would take the win, or a group of all-rounders would fight it out amongst themselves. With teams nervously eyeing each other up, the BORA-hansgrohe riders were keeping UCI World Champion, Peter Sagan, safe ahead of what was bound to be a hotly-contested finish.
The short, punchy climb had a maximum gradient of 11% in the mid-section, and with the line just a few hundred metres away, Sagan pulled his shoe from his pedal. For any other rider this would have been the end, but Sagan calmly clipped back in and regained his rhythm, throwing his bike over the line to take the win – his eighth Tour de France stage victory and the BORA-hansgrohe team’s first in the race.
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After the stage, Sagan immediately thanked his teammates for their role in his win. “First I’d like to thank all my BORA-hansgrohe teammates – they did an amazing job today. They were pulling all day on the front and it wasn’t easy, with the headwind and the technical section at the end – it was really stressful in the peloton. ”
“Then in the end it was a pretty hard climb – BMC did a good job for Richie Porte who then attacked in the last 800m. He created a small gap and went to the front, then I decided to go for it, but we were still at 400m to go and it was too early.
“It was still far away and I said to myself that again I was in the wrong position. Then I started my sprint and I unclipped – again I thought ‘another mistake – what’s going on today?’ but I went ahead. Matthews nearly beat me, but I made it. I’m so happy with this victory – Thank you BORA-hansgrohe.”