MONTPELLIER, France (VN) — Pete Sagan could only laugh at the finish line Wednesday after his latest coup.
The final 10km was bike racing in its purest form. Tinkoff’s world champion and green jersey leader Sagan rode in a daring late-race breakaway with yellow jersey Chris Froome (Sky) on a day fit for the sprinters. It was madness. It was completely unconventional. And Sagan just giggled.
“Today is something you cannot plan,” Sagan said between laughs. “The green jersey and the yellow jersey at the front? [laughs]. It was crazy!”
It was crazy. On a day tailor-made for sprinters (at least on paper), Sagan dropped the hammer with 10km to go in Wednesday’s windy, wild stage into Montpellier to try to catch the peloton’s fast men off-guard. The world champion found some good company with yellow jersey Froome, and each had one teammate in tow (Geraint Thomas and Maciej Bodnar), the winning move was made.
It was the peloton’s two strongest men on the two strongest teams holding off the furiously chasing peloton and having the times of their lives.
“I hope you’re enjoying it. I am having fun all the time!” said Sagan, once again chuckling. “It’s not just about the Tour, my life is special. We are actors. No, we are artists.”
Even Froome admitted they were having fun out there. And why wouldn’t he be? He’s taking the Tour by the scruff of its neck, and he had Peter Sagan along for the ride.
“I am enjoying what I am doing,” said Froome, always at his polite best. “It was a dream scenario for me. This is bike racing at its best, for the GC leader to take the guys on in a flat stage like this.”
The day’s dangerous crosswinds were cranking up the tension within the bunch all day long. After the peloton fractured and came back together throughout the day, Sky was keeping Froome in ideal position in the front. When he saw Sagan surge, Froome’s instinct took over. He had already taken 23 seconds on archrival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) on the descents, so why not try on the flats?
“I am not being forced into this for pressure or nervousness,” Froome said, defending his unconventional playbook. “When that move went with Sagan, I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s just see where it goes.’”
It went all the way to the line. With Bodnar and Thomas there to provide extra horsepower, the leading quartet had the perfect mixture of elements. Sagan riding for the stage win (and more green jersey points), and Froome riding to take more seconds and finish-line time bonuses, with the added plus of putting his rivals on edge one more time.
“Then Froome came, and Thomas, and it was, go! Go! Go!,” Sagan recounted. “There was not a lot of breath to speak. Everyone knew what to do. It was impressive. There was no planning. It was a surprise. We all just went to the line.”
Sagan hinted that he wanted to let Bodnar win the stage, and suggested that he only sprinted to victory after he saw Froome making a play for the line. Sagan won, and Froome took his own victory with 12 additional seconds in his pocket.
The pack thundered across the line six seconds later, wondering what the hell had just happened.