Peter Sagan moves into yellow
It says a lot about Peter Sagan’s (Bora-Hansgrohe) unrelenting success that he went into today’s stage with the choice between wearing two of the sport’s most iconic jerseys; he went for the world champion’s rainbow stripes, but could have worn the green jersey if he wished in place of Fernando Gaviria (who lead the points classification but wore the yellow jersey as overall leader)
He’ll have no such choice on tomorrow’s stage. After winning a reduced bunch sprint, Sagan will wear the yellow jersey for just the second time in his career (after a three-day sprint during the opening week of the 2016 Tour de France.)
The result marks a huge upturn in fortunes for the Slovak at the Tour de France after his appearance last year was cut short following a disqualification on stage four. Though it will likely be just the one day in yellow for Sagan given his team’s modest team time trialling abilities, Sagan will no doubt enjoy his 24 hours in the limelight.
Although he won the sprint from a depleted field missing yesterday’s winner Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) – who crashed on a corner 1.5km from the line – and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) – who punctured earlier on – he still had to produce a powerful turn of speed to come around Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida).
The world champion is clearly on great form even by his lofty standards. This could be the first of multiple stage wins at the 2018 Tour de France.
Points classification already in Sagan’s favour
The Tour may still only be two days old, but already Sagan is looking like the hot favourite for the green jersey.
A first and second-place finish on the two stages so far plus a handful of points in the intermediate sprints marks an almost perfect start to the race for him, while all of his potential rivals have already sustained big losses.
The riders who collected the most points along with Sagan yesterday – Gaviria and Kittel – failed to score any points in the finale today, and those who did so today – Démare and Colbrelli – were nowhere to be seen yesterday, leaving Sagan with a substantial lead already.
Given Sagan’s remarkable consistency and ability to stay out of trouble, and with days like the hilly stage five, Mûr-de-Bretagne finish and cobbled stage to Roubaix to come, he could boast a very big lead in the points classification by the end of the first week.
Sylvain Chavanel looks to go out with a bang
Not only is this Sylvain Chavanel’s last Tour de France, it’s also the 18th in his career, meaning he’ll bow out of the sport as the outright record holder for most Tour appearances.
That’s a fine achievement in itself, and you could forgive Chavanel – who turned 39 last week – for taking it easy and riding conservatively in the bunch.
But conservative racing isn’t in the Frenchman’s DNA, and he made a statement of intent for how he plans to ride his final Tour by embarking on a huge solo attack today.
Although his eagerness to get into the break was evident, Chavanel would not have anticipated spending the day alone.
Initially he was accompanied by Dion Smith (Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Michael Gogl (Trek-Segafredo) but found himself without a single companion when the former dropped back having gained maximum points on the day’s climb, and the latter sought to seek medical attention.
The break was therefore even less likely to succeed than usual, and Chavanel was inevitably caught with 13km to go. His grit and determination to last that long does suggest that he’s in the mood, though – perhaps a repeat of his 2008 and 2010 super-combativity awards for most aggressive rider throughout the whole race could be on the cards?
Lawson Craddock hangs in there
For most of the riders it was a relatively relaxed stage completed without too much difficulty, considerable heat aside.
Not for Lawson Craddock, though. After finishing yesterday’s stage bloodied and bruised following a crash halfway in, he bravely vowed to fight on for another day today, but was clearly in difficulty.
The young American was seen at the back of the peloton early on in the stage and proceeded to yoyo in and out of the peloton for much of the stage. Ultimately, though, he managed to make it to the end of the stage, and lives to fight another day.
It seems apt that he’s sporting the No. 13 jersey given his luck so far this Tour de France. But his battling spirit will have earned many plaudits, and will be able to take it easy tomorrow in the team time trial.
Stress levels remain high as crashes abound
Although we didn’t see anything like the chaos of yesterday, with major favourites crashing, puncturing and losing time, today had its fair share of incident too.
Most serious of all were the first two abandonments of the 2018 Tour de France – Tsgabu Grmay (Trek-Segafredo), who fell ill, and Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana), who suffered a nasty crash and displayed many of the signs of a broken collarbone.
That’s bad news for Trek-Segafredo’s leader Bauke Mollema and Astana’s leader Jakob Fuglsang, who will be a man short in tomorrow’s team time trial stage.
Another incident saw Adam Yates crash, but fortunately the young Brit was able to remount and make it back into the bunch swiftly, apparently unharmed. Having lost time yesterday the beginning of his Tour is already in stark contrast to his brother’s electrifying opening to the Giro, although there is of course a long way to go.