Rider of the week – Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan loves the first week of the Tour de France. In the four editions that he’s raced since 2012, the Slovakian has finished in the top ten 23 times before the first rest day, claiming an incredible 16 podium finishes.
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This year is no different, with six top-10s (seven if you include Tinkoff-Saxo’s fourth place in the team time trial) and five podium places.
It’s Sagan’s remarkable consistency over all terrains that sets him apart from any other rider in the peloton. On stage two he punctured when in the leading group – the peloton split by high winds – and made it back into the pack to finish second without any help from his team.
Two days later he helped Alberto Contador over the cobbles and then had enough energy to sprint for third place. A second-place finish on the flat stage to Amiens (won by Andre Greipel) was followed by another one on the hilly finish in Le Havre, when Zdenek Stybar broke clear for the win.
Another podium was gained on stage seven when he motored past Alexander Kristoff and Arnaud Demare in the final stages, but it was stage eight where his versatility was epitomised.
The Mur de Bretagne, where the stage finished, is no walk in the park. Overall contenders Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Tejay van Garderen all finished in the top 15, but it was Sagan who clung to their wheels all the way up the two kilometre climb.
Not only did he have the power to get to the top of the climb in one piece, he then had enough to sprint for fourth place, ahead of some experts on that terrain.
And he also found time for plenty of banter…
There’s not much for him in the mountains, but expect to see him competing for the win in the transition stages at the end of the second week.
Surprise of the week – Alexis Vuillermoz
Everyone in cycling already knows how strong Sagan is, but few will have even heard of Ag2r-La Mondiale’s Alexis Vuillermoz, let alone backed him to win a stage.
It shouldn’t have come as such a shock to see him doing well, given his sixth-place finish at this year’s Flèche Wallonne and top-10 finishes in several WorldTour races.
But still, as he powered up the Mur de Huy on stage three, a host of non-French fans cried “who?” when he finished third.
Having given the fans a few days to research his palmares (he finished 11th overall in the Giro last year) he went on to smash the Mur de Bretagne and beat Dan Martin by a full five seconds.
He’s 27 and has been with Ag2r for the past two seasons, joining from the now defuct Sojasun, and he’s tied down for a good few years to come, so watch out for him on the remaining hilly stages of the Tour.
If the Tour de France was a television programme…
…it’d be Game of Thrones. Just as a popular rider starts doing well the cycling gods smite them and knock them out of the race with injury.
First the affable Fabian Cancellara, whose place in Tour de France history was sealed with his 29th day in the yellow jersey on stage three, and then Tony Martin, the ever-happy German who broke his collarbone while in yellow on stage six.
Picture of the week
It’s one of the most endearing cycling shots in recent years – perfectly epitomising the concepts of teamwork and camaraderie. Martin (in yellow) broke his collarbone in a crash 800m from the finish line and was chaperoned by his teammates to the end.
Video of the Week
The mechanics were busy on week one, what with all the crashes, but none moreso than the Orica GreenEdge mechanic. Here he straps a GoPro to his chest and sprints into the aftermath of the huge crash on stage three which left Simon Gerrans and Daryl Impey out of the race.
Quote of the week
“Did we clear it all up? Yeah! We are not footballers, we are cyclists!”
Vincenzo Nibali discusses what happened when Chris Froome visited the Astana team bus after the crash near the end of stage six. Nibali initially thought the Team Sky rider had caused the spill, but Froome was keen to insist that he didn’t.
Stats of the week
Stages completed: 9
Stages to go: 12
Distance ridden: 1343.8km
Distance to go: 2014.5km
Days in race lead
Chris Froome (Team Sky): 4
Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep): 3
Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing): 1
Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing): 1
Stage wins by nation (not including TTT)
Czech Republic: 1
Great Britain: 1
Stage wins by team
BMC Racing: 2
Ag2r La Mondiale: 1
Cycling Weekly looks ahead to the Pyrenean stages of the Tour de France