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Tour de France

Peter Sagan down but not out at the Tour de France

Sagan is battling to recover from injuries, but opportunities in second week and refusal to give up on green keep Slovak in the frame.

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Mark Cavendish has rolled back the years with a hat-trick of stage wins.

Nairo Quintana is raiding the mountains in a hunt for the polka dot jersey.

Rigoberto Urán is hunting for the podium or more.

It’s all so middle-of-last-decade.

But there’s one notable absence from the list of storied veterans lighting up the Tour de France – and it’s not Chris Froome.

Where’s Peter Sagan?

The Slovak ace has been out the headlines of this year’s Tour since he hit the tarmac in the crash-riddled stage 3. He only darted back into the eyeline Tuesday when the rumor mill spat out reports linking him to a future with Team TotalEnergies.

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So when can we hope to see Sagan’s legs doing the talking?

Sagan is currently way out of the green jersey competition and still hunting for a stage victory. Still nursing cuts and bruising after the stage 3 crash that ended Caleb Ewan’s race, Sagan has been off the pace – but he remains hopeful for stage win number 13 or an unlikely eighth green jersey.

“My knee is getting better and I’ll keep fighting,” he said after finishing eighth in the bunch sprint Tuesday.

Up against a resurgent Mark Cavendish in the fast finishes and vying with a bullish Sonny Colbrelli and Michael Matthews in the battle for sprint points, Sagan has been left hunting for scraps.

The Slovak is currently some 130 points away from the green jersey, and it’s hard to see Sagan riding into Paris in green.

But despite reports of intra-team rifts, Bora-Hansgrohe has gone all-in to see Sagan return to the top of the Tour. A series of hilly and potentially windy sprint stages Thursday through Saturday are Sagan’s best bet of a score that would keep him in contention in the points classification.

“The gap with the competition is not small [in the green jersey competition], but there are now some stages with a lot of points to be earned and with some hills just after the start and a chance of wind,” sport director Enrico Poitschke said Monday. “Such stages have always suited Peter well. We continue to believe in him and will fight together.”

Tensions have simmered between Sagan and the team he joined in 2017. Nonetheless, team brass insists that Sagan will get the wheels he needs to make it through the mountains and to make the fast finishes suitably difficult for the pure sprinters – even with Bora-Hansgrohe GC guy Wilco Kelderman poised in seventh overall.

For Sagan and all the sprinters, Wednesday’s double ascent of the Ventoux and next week’s Pyrénéan triple will make for a nervy battle with the time cut. A swathe of the Tour’s fastmen failed to make the elimination in the Alps last weekend. Sagan finished with a relatively comfortable six minutes to spare.

Sagan’s first hope to hit the winner’s podium will come Thursday, and two more will follow. After that, he’ll be hoping to see Cavendish and the heavy sprinters succumb to the commissaire’s stopwatch in the Pyrénées.

The Tour de France isn’t the same without a little sizzle from Sagan.

Once he’s made it over the Ventoux, let’s hope to be tuning in to the Sagan show.