Tour de France 2020

Sagan second again after hair-raising descent

Peter Sagan put it all on the line, descending like a madman into Gap, but he was unable to pull back lone escapee Ruben Plaza in stage 16.

GAP, France (VN) — Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) is on his way to claiming a fourth-straight green jersey in the Tour de France, but it may come without a win.

The Slovakian in the points jersey swooped down the Col de Manse Monday in pursuit of Spaniard Rubén Plaza (Lampre-Merida) and his first stage win. Not only would it be his first in 2015, but his first since 2013 when he won stage 7 in Albi.

In 2014, Sagan claimed his third green points jersey, but did so without throwing his hands in the air. Still, the jersey was important.

If Sagan claims his fourth, he would match Sean Kelly. Only German Erik Zabel won more, winning six straight. Zabel later admitted to doping in his career.

Sagan’s hair-raising ride down the short but dangerous Col de Manse paved the way to a fourth title. He closed the day second and gained 25 points. With the 20 he won at the intermediate sprint, he now leads German André Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) by 89 points — 405 to 316.

He remains — with five days to race — without a win. Instead, he counts five second-place finishes.

“I’m glad because I was going for second place. No, I’m joking,” Sagan said in his nasally voice.

“I really don’t know what I should do better. I tried everything. I knew I had to try as hard as I could in the descent even if it meant dying.”

Sagan joked, but the Manse descent is known for its dangers. In 2003, Spaniard Joseba Beloki crashed on melted tarmac and Lance Armstrong went through the field to continue racing. Beloki broke his leg and returned to racing, but was never the same as before.

The same descent also saw Sky’s Geraint Thomas crash from the leader’s group, 18 minutes later on Monday. Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) collided with Thomas, who went off-road into a lamppost and down into a ditch. A spectator had to help him up so that he could continue.

Sagan, who is known for his wheelies and bunny-hops, can descend faster than most in the peloton. Colombian Jarlinson Pantano (IAM Cycling) tried to stay with him on the nine-kilometer decent, but was distanced midway down.

‘The Saganator’ turned the descent into his own personal playground. He squeezed every possible inch out of every corner, and nearly overcooked some, to keep his speed high and to close on Plaza. He went from nearly one minute back to around 30 seconds, but could not gain more before the road flattened.

“I knew the descent from two years ago and from seeing it on television with the Beloki crash,” Sagan said.

“I was again very close. I tried, and I went full gas on the descent, I took some risks also, but it was not enough to win the stage.”

Sagan seemed proud because on the line he pounded his chest like Matthew McConaughey in “The Wolf of Wall Street” and hummed. Asked why he is so aggressive, he said, “Cause I have big balls!”

His aggression may bring him more points and bring followers more entertaining moments, but it may fail to win him a stage. He only has two more chances: In Saint Jean de Maurienne on Thursday or when the race ends in Paris on Sunday.