Sagan left the Pyrenees on Thursday with a narrow two point margin over Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), but he has, after two ‘transition’ stages, increased this to 61 points with second place in Rodez yesterday and fifth place at the end of stage 14 in Mende on Saturday.
The 25-year-old has been found desperately wanting of a stage win but has been, crucial to the points classification, consistent throughout the 102nd edition of the Tour, finishing in the top five of nine out of 14 stages – six times on the podium and four times as a stage runner-up.
Greipel and Sagan have more or less swapped the green jersey between them during the race in which the former has won two stages and various intermediate sprints on flatter terrain.
Rivals say Sagan’s stranglehold was set in stage 13 yesterday when he finished second to Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) on an uphill drag where Greipel, struggling in the searing heat, did not figure.
“Yesterday was the day of the green jersey, and we lost yesterday,” Greipel’s sports director at Lotto-Soudal, Herman Frison, said.
“It’s not finished, but it’s going to be very difficult to take it back.”
The Tour this year features fewer opportunities for pure sprinters like the German Greipel, who has a chance to add to his career eight-stage haul on stage 15 and then on the Champs Elysées in Paris.
Stage 15 features four categorised climbs and notably a second category some 60km from the finish. The tactics of teams there and in the lead-up may impact on whether a bunch sprint eventuates.
“He is the fastest rider from the bunch, I think that you can see that from the first two weeks,” Frison said.
“We change now the plans and must go for and take the victory in Paris. That’s the biggest goal that we have now with him.”