Tour de France 2020

Active Pass roundtable: Peter Sagan’s Tour de France relegation was wrong, right?

We answer your questions about the 2020 Tour de France. Today, the biggest question is whether Peter Sagan's relegation on Wednesday was the right call.

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You have questions about the 2020 Tour de France, and we have answers and educated opinions. Our veteran reporters, Andrew Hood and James Startt, are fielding your biggest inquiries each day in this Active Pass roundtable column. Today, we have a question about the use of ketones and the controversial relegation of Peter Sagan.

OK, let’s get to your questions!

Are ketones widely used in the TDF peloton?

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: It’s hard to know how many teams might be using ketones. They’re still not on the official banned list, and they’re said to be a “rich-man’s team” product because they are quite expensive to buy. They’re certainly not without controversy.

James Startt: I really don’t know to be honest. I reckon it depends on the team, but I cannot say.

Fred Dreier: If we are to believe reports, then at least six teams used ketones at the 2018 Tour de France, and Jumbo-Visma, Lotto-Soudal, and perhaps Deceuninck – Quick-Step used them in 2019. They are controversial, of course. Basically, synthetic ketones replace the natural ones in your liver, which help you preserve glycogen storage and reduce lactic acid during prolonged periods of endurance training. Are they game-changing substances like EPO or blood packing? I haven’t personally done any research here.

My theory is that Bernal avoids taking yellow in the Alps so that Ineos can rest. He then grabs it by winning the final TT. What do you think of my theory?

Andy: I doubt Dave Brailsford would agree with you. Bernal could end up losing time to Roglič in the time trial, so there’s no way they’d want that risk. My guess is that Ineos tries to slam the door shut on the yellow jersey in stage 17 on the Col de la Loze — it’s hard, long and high, ideal for Bernal. If they can’t crack Roglič there, it could be race over.

James: No way! Bernal cannot risk it. Roglič is a better time trialist on paper. No, he has to attack and get the yellow jersey in the final big mountain stages. Ineos is strong enough to take him to a good point in the remaining stages and then he has to fend for himself in the last kilometers of any climbs. But at that point, he will only have a couple of riders to control. But there is no way he can bide his time until the last TT.

Fred: My friend, I’m glad that you are not a director sportif! Much like my GC winners column from yesterday, your plan for Bernal’s victory is extremely flawed. But I give you tons of points for creativity!

I don’t understand why Peter Sagan was relegated. What was wrong with his sprint?

Andy: I think the jury is influenced by two things: One, instant replay. The jury is now using instant replay much more extensively as part of their jury decisions. In fact, that change came about after the famous Sagan-Cavendish mix up a few years ago. A second factor — the horrific crash involving Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour of Poland. The race jury is under pressure to be stricter in the bunch sprints to get the message out to the pack not to take unnecessary risks.

James: I don’t either, and neither does anyone that has sprinted seriously, really. I have rewatched the sprint many times in the last few hours. It is a move out of self-defense. If he doesn’t do what he did, he causes a crash. One thing is certain, the move cost him the stage win because he lost his momentum and that was the difference between winning and losing in Poitiers, and the call, may well have cost him the green jersey because his relegation cost him a lot of points. But don’t count Peter out. There is still a week of high mountains and Peter will pick up valuable points in the bonus sprints on those stages. But the green jersey could go down to the Champs Elysées this year, like it did with Stuart O’Grady and Erik Zabel back in the day.

Fred: I think they made the right call. Sagan took a risk by shooting the gap and he then deviated from his line and shoved another rider. Yes, he did so to avoid a fan. But those are the rules! My hypothesis is that they came down harder on Sagan than perhaps on a different rider, as Sagan has a history of rough-and-tumble actions in sprints and cobblestones. I believe it was 2017 when he shoved another rider out of the bunch during E3-Harelbeke.

The Peter Sagan of 2020 obviously isn’t the same guy from years past. Maybe he’s like Geraint Thomas, and he needs more racing days to really get into top form. Or, maybe he’s building toward the Giro d’Italia. No matter the reason, he’s just not at the same level as Wout van Aert or Sam Bennett. When sprinters aren’t on the same form, they take chances that they otherwise would not. Thus, I think Sagan’s sketchy move in Poitiers is simply a product of his poor form at this year’s race.

With all that said, I still love Peter Sagan and I hope he wins a stage.

If you have any thoughts on ways to do so, feel free to email me at webletters@velonews.com.