Peter Sagan must overcome “messy sprints” now to win with many top Tour de France sprinters abandoned the 2018 race.
Sagan won his third stage of the 2018 Tour on Friday and added more points to his green jersey lead, but it was not a clean run through the streets of Valence.
“It’s changed, yes, the few teams that want to work are not here anymore,” Sagan said of the Tour sprints.
Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Team Emirates) and Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) placed second and third.
Over the last mountain days, Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin), Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors), André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) and Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) quit.
“There are maybe three to five teams who can pull a fast sprint, but now it’s only one to two teams. It changes the bunch now because everyone wants to sprint now. And it’s a pretty messy sprint now!”
Sagan messed around with the press conference microphone, taking off the foam wind cover and tapping it. He fidgeted in his chair, leaning forward and back. Adding more after pausing.
“It’s OK, though, everyone gets an opportunity right? Or they are trying to create opportunities!”
The three-time world champion wears the green points/sprints jersey, but his Bora team primarily leaves the work to the other teams with dedicated sprinter like Groupama-FDJ with Démare.
Trek-Segafredo tried to place John Degenkolb in line for a sprint. Quick-Step launched Philippe Gilbert into an attack at one kilometre out, and Classics men Greg Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert elbowed their way ahead for chance.
Gone are the days of a Quick-Step Floors train for Gaviria or LottoNL for Groenewegen, winning two stages each this year before quitting. The situation looked different, even “messy” in the Slovakian’s eyes.
“Today was messy, with everyone trying to sprint, and the climbers were afraid of gaps, so they were up there too,” Sagan said.
“I was back far in the final K, 20 or 25th spot. I sprinted to get to the front to be on the wheel of Kristoff, maybe in the last 500m.”
Sagan’s team used its energy wisely to control the early break and finally see the end to the escape, the remaining rider being Michael Schär (BMC Racing).
“First, it’s really important to control the break. You can have five to 15 riders in the break. We spoke and decided to control the break from the start,” Sagan said.
“We had four riders up the front, afterwards, we decided to let the sprint team go [to work] to save energy, and I could ride on their wheels.”