It was a sad sight to see.
Wearing a brilliant yellow skinsuit, fresh off his win in stage 2, Peter Sagan lost contact with his Bora-Hansgrohe team with six kilometers remaining in the stage 3 team time trial. Sagan pedaled to the finish by himself and lost the maillot jaune. He now sits in 80th place, 3:00 down. After the finish, Sagan said his efforts in the team time trial were designed to help the team’s GC leader, Rafal Majka.
“We are here for Majka,” Sagan said. “It was nice to wear the yellow jersey for one day. Not every day is Sunday. I tried my best, and I am sorry for my teammates because they were much better than me today.”
Sagan’s efforts started out with a setback — his water bottle popped out after only 400 meters of racing when he hit a bump in the road. Then, it quickly became apparent that the Slovak star did not have the legs to ride an all-out team time trial effort. Sagan took a pull on the front as the team headed into the course’s climb to the 26.5km time check, and then faded to the back. Daniel Oss took a long pull on the hill, and the effort shed German Marcus Burghardt from the squad. Sagan gritted his teeth and grimaced as he held the wheel on the slight rise, but near the top his effort slowed, and he drifted off the back. Oss and the other riders sped on to the finish.
Fans reached over the barriers and tapped Sagan on the backside as he pedaled up the rise.
“I did not have my best day today,” Sagan said. “The team time trials are always hard because they are so fast. We will see in the next days. We’ve just finished the third day, and it is still a long way to Paris.”
Sagan admitted it was a bit disappointing to lose yellow just 37.5 kilometers after he won it in a hectic sprint to La Roche-sur-Yon.
“Well, it could be better, but it could be worse. I hope to do something better in the next days,” he said. “I am looking forward to the stages this week. I have a few more chances before we ride into the mountains.”
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And although Sagan is a bit disappointed, Majka is content to stay within reach of rivals for the yellow jersey.
Bora-Hansgrohe finished 50 seconds behind stage 3 winners BMC Racing, ceding 46 seconds to Chris Froome’s Team Sky. Other teams with top GC riders, such as Bahrain-Merida, Movistar, and Ag2r La Mondiale finished behind Majka’s squad.
One of the best climbers in the group, Majka now sits in 11th place, just 50 seconds down.
“My legs felt really good and I could push a lot but we never found the right rhythm today, so we lost a few more seconds than we would have liked,” Makja said. “The position I find myself in the GC now is still fine, and there are still a lot of tricky stages ahead of us where we can gain back some time.”
Sagan now turns his attention to stage victories, as well as the battle for the Tour’s green points jersey. Sagan is a five-time winner of the jersey and is looking to tie Erik Zabel’s record of six. Sagan currently leads that competition, and on Monday donned the green jersey. He currently leads Colombian sprinter Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step), 104 points to 78.
Andrew Hood contributed to this story from Cholet, France.