NANCY, France (AFP) — For the third time at this Tour de France, Peter Sagan was pipped at the line, as Italy’s Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won stage 7 on Friday.
Sagan could not have come any closer this time as he was beaten by barely an inch after a massive 234.5km stage from Epernay to Nancy. It was so close that Trentin even congratulated his Slovak rival after the line.
“At first I didn’t know if I’d won. It was so close that I wasn’t sure,” Trentin said. “I congratulated Peter because I thought it was him. From 50 meters out I saw him arriving like a bullet. It was really a sprint down to the last centimeter; I’ve seen the photo finish and there’s only a centimeter in it.”
Sagan is rapidly becoming an expert in the “close-but-no-cigar” stakes. As well as three bridesmaid finishes, he’s also come fourth three times and fifth once, his lowest finish in the seven stages so far.
The 24-year-old Slovak has been the most consistent rider on the Tour so far and holds the points leader’s green jersey. On Friday, he made a valiant effort, following Greg Van Avermaet’s (BMC Racing) attack on the final descent. However, it was not meant to be.
“I tried to attack after the last KOM with Van Avermaet,” Sagan said. “When I saw the group coming fast I just waited for the sprint. Unfortunately, my effort was not enough. When I win, many people say that for me it’s easy [to] do it, but today’s stage proves that it’s always hard being the first. Since the first stage, every day I’m among the main contenders, and now I wear the green jersey with a good advantage. This is a positive aspect, but I want something more. I know there will be other chances until Paris, and I think that my day will arrive.”
Friday’s stage promised to be his best chance yet, with two short, tough climbs in the final 20 kilometers.
Pure sprinters like Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), who have won four sprint finishes this year between them, were dropped on the climb, leaving a better all-rounder like Sagan to strike.
“I always get close to winning,” Sagan said. “Even [Thursday] I wanted to sprint, but I had no luck. It’s a little frustrating; maybe sometimes I ask too much to myself.”
Sagan crashed for the second day in a row on Thursday, to add to his unhappy mood.
“The most important thing is that I have nothing broken,” the Slovak said. “Two crashes in two days are not something that make me happy, but I’m OK. I hope to absorb the bruises I have on my body as soon as possible.”