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Sagan unconcerned with looming mountains as he fights for green jersey record

The Slovakian knows he has a lot of work to do to get through what some are calling the hardest Tour in years. But mountains are the least of his concerns.

COLMAR, France (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is taking aim at a record seventh green jersey title in the 2019 Tour de France. After his win in stage 5, he’s solidly in the lead of the points competition. However, the big mountains loom — in a Tour some say is the hardest in years — and Sagan must get over all of them, on his way to Paris, if he is to have a chance at breaking the record he currently co-holds with German Erik Zabel.

Today in Colmar, along the border with Germany, Sagan won his first stage of the 2019 edition and the 12th in his career. Now, he is in a position to try for the record.

“Better not to think about my green jersey rivals,” Sagan explained after the podium celebrations. “Day by day, I try to do my best and then try to manage to make some gap between [Elia] Viviani and me, and [Michael] Matthews and [Wout] Van Aert.”

Sagan has placed second, fifth, and fourth in the sprint finishes in this year’s race. He now leads the points competition with 144 points over Matthews (Sunweb), who has 97. Viviani (Deceuninck-Quick Step) is third with 92.

In the 2018 Tour, several sprinters missed the time cut and were sent home when the race hit the mountains, including Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma), and Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin). The 29-year-old Slovakian, in contrast, fought through injuries he suffered in a crash in stage 17  to drag his body, in the green jersey, to the finish in Paris. This year, many say the race is even harder, with higher mountains to get over. The serious climbs start tomorrow, and Sagan must now start to think of time limits and survival.

“I don’t care about mountains, if it’s 2000, 3000 meters. I care more about who came in the time limit. That’s my problem,” Sagan said. “We only did four stages so far, and we still have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of short stages, lots of climbs. It will be interesting. But this is my sixth or seventh Tour de France, and I never had problems. Once or twice, I was on the limit but it’s okay.”

Sagan celebrated today, though. This was his first major victory of 2019, after he fell sick in the early season. His spring campaign, from Milan-San Remo to the Flèche Wallonne, were a bust. After winning a stage at the Tour of California, and another at Tour de Suisse in June, Sagan seems to be back where he needs to be to fight through the grueling stages through the Pyrenees and Alps.