Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) paid tribute to Chris Froome and Team Sky after they combined in an astonishing final move on the wind-swept roads to Montpellier – but added that he hopes the attack did not cost Froome too much energy ahead of the ascent of Mont Ventoux on Thursday.
Sagan attacked with team-mate Maciej Bodnar at 12 kilometres out in the 162.5-kilometre stage through France's south. Froome joined, Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas followed, and the four rode clear of the stretch-out and stressed peloton behind.
At one point it looked as if Froome would attempt to beat Sagan to the stage victory, but in the end it was the world champion first, the yellow jersey second, and Bodnar in third.
"Froome did everything he could," Sagan said. "Thomas was dropped at 600 metres out. I thought that maybe Froome would not sprint. I led for Bodnar, I wanted him to win, but then Chris started sprinting and I had to go for the win."
Tomorrow sees one of this year's crucial stages, as the riders tackle the infamous Mont Ventoux.
"Froome made a big effort and spent a lot of energy," added Sagan. "I hope tomorrow that he has the energy because it's going to go fast on the climb, for sure.
"I can only say good luck to Froome."
The four-man breakaway gained 12 seconds with 10 kilometres to race and 21 with five kilometres. With the sprinters' teams working, it slipped to 14 at one kilometre out and six seconds at the finish line in a hot and blustery Montpellier.
Froome, with the six-second bonus for second place, ended with another 12 seconds on rivals such as Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Richie Porte (BMC Racing) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). His advantage over the Colombian, his principal rival in this year's general classification, stands at 35 seconds.
"It just happened," Sagan said of the move. "It wasn't like it was planned or [Froome] came up to me and said, 'We are here, amigo.'
"I felt good today. For sure, it was not a boring stage. It was stressful from the start. Sky was all the time at the front, we were always at the front. It was always dangerous.
"This was a nice stage for the Tour de France, no? I've been in the yellow, green and won stages. It was a very good stage for me and I think it was also impressive for people in front of the TV."
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