Peter Sagan of Liquigas Cannondale has won his second Tour de France stage in three days on Stage 3 in Boulogne this afternoon. The win extends his lead in the points competition and takes him up to 15 victories for the season. Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen was second, with Peter Velits of Omega Pharma-Quick Step third. As the 22 year old Sagan launched his decisive attack on a short but tough final climb, a number of riders were brought down in a crash behind him. Earlier crashes resulted in three riders suffering broken bones - a femur for Team Sky's Kanstatsin Siustou, collarbone for Movistar's Jose Jouaquin Rojas, and hip for Maarten Tjallingii of Rabobank - on what proved to be a very tough day's racing. RadioShack-Nissan's Fabian Cancellara retains the race leader's maillot jaune.
Team bike sponsor Cannondale had presented Sagan with a custom painted ‘Tourminator’ frame after his debut Tour de France stage win in Seraing on Sunday – his very first road stage in the race – and today he was ruthless in the way he despatched his rivals on that final climb.
The Slovak, who had earlier had to ride back to the peloton alone after puncturing, won more at a jog than a canter as he pumped his arms in an exaggerated slow motion running movement as he crossed the line – inspired, he explained afterwards, by Forrest Gump, although on today's display there's little prospect of Sagan suddenly stopping mid-stage as the character played by Tom Hanks did in that film while running across the United States.
Sagan had sprung his attack the moment the lead group caught Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel, who had been third overall this morning, seven seconds behind Cancellara, and who launched a brave solo bid to wrest the maillot jaune off the Swiss rider’s shoulders around five and a half kilometres from the line.
Chavanel, who won the French national championships here in Boulogne a little over a year ago, built a lead of around a quarter of a minute, but he was never out of his pursuers’ sights and as the road reared up inside the final few hundred metres, his legs gave out.
Missing from that group charging up the hill to catch and overtake the Omega Pharma-Quick Step man were a couple of riders predicted as possible winners of today’s stage.
One was the man who preceded him as French champion, Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler, who spent nearly a fortnight in the maillot jaune last year but was today held up in one of two big crashes earlier in the stage, one of which also involved Orica GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans.
Another rider who hit a problem closer to the line, costing him vital road position, was Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, who misjudged a roundabout ahead of the finale that had also cost Chavanel valuable seconds as he went slightly too wide and had to brake.
With six categorised climbs on a twisting parcours inside the final 70 kilometres of today’s 197 kilometre stage from Orchies, four of them inside the final 16 kilometres, it was always going to be a day where an awful lot could happen and so it proved.
Following the first of those ascents, the Category 4 Côte de l’Éperche, came the crash that brought Siustou’s race to an end, denying maillot jaune hopeful Bradley Wiggins the services of a key colleague in the mountains as the Belarus rider became the first to abandon this year’s Tour.
An earlier crash had seen Janez Brajkovič rejoin the peloton nursing a wound to his arm, and while the wind coming off the coast was less severe than it could have been and the threatened rain largely held off, the undulating terrain of the closing quarter of the stage, mainly played out on narrow roads, exacted a heavy toll on riders and bikes alike.
Among those to suffer from mechanical problems was Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez who spent some time engaged in animated discussion with a neutral service mechanic as he rode alongside the yellow Mavic car with what appeared to be a problem with his rear derailleur.
Another crash around 30 kilometres out involved riders who may have fancied their chances in today’s finale including Milan-San Remo winner Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge and former Spanish national champion Jose Joaquin Rojas, who was later confirmed to have abandoned with a broken collarbone.
Likely to get the vote as least popular rider today was Jose Ivan Gutierrez of the latter’s own Movistar team, who after both those crashes was at the front of the peloton forcing the pace, Team Sky riders remonstrating with him after the first one that brought an end to Siustou’s race.
For the third day in succession, Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank’s Michael Morkov got himself into the break, enabling him to pick up more mountains classification points to stay in the polka dot jersey. In all, he’s now spent more than 500 kilometres at the front of the race, with just three road stages gone.
Joining the former world Madison champion in the escape group today were four other riders, Giovanni Bernaudeau of Europcar, son of team manager Jean-René, plus Ruben Perez of Euskaltel-Euskadi, AG2R’s Sebastien Minard, and the Ukrainian champion, Andriy Grivko of Astana.
Minard was the first rider through the intermediate sprint point, which today came at Senlecques, with 78 kilometres left to ride.
Once again, there was a big fight in the peloton for the maximum ten remaining points left once the break had gone through, GreenEdge looking good in the lead out, but Team Sky’s Mark Cavendish, winner yesterday in Tournai, crossed first and gestured angrily at Vacansoleil-DCM's Kenny Van Hummel, who had appeared to drift across his line.
Grivko and Morkov had dropped their fellow breakaway companions ahead of the day’s penultimate climb, the Category 3 Côte du Mont Lambert, crested a little over six kilometres from the finish, but they were caught ahead of the summit by the main group, with Sagan’s team mate Ivan Basso working at the front of the bunch.
On the descent, Chavanel would launch his attack, but with BMC Racing who had two potential cards to play in the finale in the shape of Philippe Gilbert and 2011 Tour winner Cadel Evans leading the chase, the odds were always stacked against the Frenchman.
Two-time stage winner Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale:
"It was a difficult stage with the sort of finale that could only be won if you had “good” legs. I’m very, very happy about this win. No victory is easy and if I win, it’s also because of my teammates. It’s an honour to know that champions like Basso and Nibali are working for me; it’s something that gives you massive drive.
"We’d planned the final attack in this morning’s meeting, even though I didn’t know what the climb would really be like. It was important to get the timing right and even more important to have enough energy. This second win is incredible because I came to France hoping to win one stage and I’ve already doubled that in four days. I’m really satisfied and it’s an incentive to believe in the dream of wearing the green jersey to Paris. A third win? I always try to win and I’ll have another go if I get the chance.
"The other evening my teammates and I decided that if I won again, I’d do it like Forrest Gump: when they told him to run, he ran; when they tell me to win, I win. I like doing something that makes people smile. When I watch sport on the TV, I’ve always liked it when someone adds a touch of fun to their victories, like Valentino Rossi does. Now that I’m winning, I try to do the same thing."
Sean Yates, Team Sky Sports Director:
“It was a tough day. It’s the Tour and it’s always going to be hectic. Kosta [Siustou] was the victim today. We will miss him over the course of the next two-and-a-half weeks.
“When it gets to the pointy end of the race with climbs and those narrow roads everyone wants to be at the front. There are crashes at other races but at the Tour it always seems to happen that much more.
“Eddy gave it his best shot at the finish but Sagan was on another level. He’s proven that once again. The main thing for us was that Bradley stayed upright and didn’t lose any time but we are sad to see Kosta go home tonight.”
Maillot jaune, Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack-Nissan:
“On a stage like this, I knew I had to give it my all. There were narrow roads with plenty of twists and turns. It seems a bit like what I know the Tour of Flanders to be like. In the final kilometers it was very dangerous, and it was necessary for the whole team to work hard to keep me in the best position. Of course we're used to that, but it really was not easy and I've got to thank them for what they did.
“When I saw Chavanel attack, I thought that it could be dangerous; I know he is very strong so I asked Chris Horner to do another sprint ahead of the peloton to get closer to him. Then I saw that he could not keep seven seconds ahead.
“For the stage win, I was a little out of position – but that's not an excuse. What I see is that I'm happy to have arrived with the yellow jersey, and without having had a problem. I am in my place behind Sagan who is very good on these sorts of finishes. It is absolutely not a surprise to see him at this level when we know everything else that he has already won. It is even normal.
"When I go to a prologue, it's me who wins. When there is a sprint, it's Cavendish who wins. And on an arrival like this, it is [Sagan] who wins. He has class, will and power, and he has great years ahead of him. What we see here is really only the beginning.
“For the yellow jersey, I don't expect to wear it all the way to Switzerland because of the stage to La Planches des Belles Filles… it will be the ‘Planche' of the sore legs! This is going to be a big climbers’ stage, so I know it will be impossible to keep the jersey there.”
Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde
“This is the Tour: there's much nerves, much danger. At the moment, our goal is intact: we're riding up-front, I went through a difficult day due to crashes and did not lost time.
“We were told before the start about a difficult turn to the right, but when we got there, the radio wasn't working properly and I didn't hear what they were telling us. I went from fourth to last into the group and, even after that, I got into the crash that happened in the final slope.
“If I was there with 2k to go, it was because I had good legs. I was into perfect position and had strength into the previous climbs, with no troubles to advance into the group.
“I'd love to contest a finish like that against Sagan, but we're not having that chance. We have to congratulate him because he's showing to be the best into such finishes.
“There wasn't much luck for us today, neither by my side nor by Rojas's. He has had a jinxed Tour and it all finished today. The crash happened at my side of the road, we were riding at front and I saw fast he took his hand to the shoulder, it was really bad. I can only send him my support so he gets up as fast as possible."
Tour de France Stage 3 result 1. SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 04h 42' 58'' 2. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 01'' 3. VELITS Peter OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP All at same time 4. CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 5. ALBASINI Michael ORICA GREENEDGE 6. EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM 7. ROCHE Nicolas AG2R LA MONDIALE 8. SANCHEZ Samuel EUSKALTEL - EUSKADI 9. MOLLEMA Bauke RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 10. NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 11. HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA 12. POELS Wouter VACANSOLEIL-DCM 13. KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 14. KISERLOVSKI Robert ASTANA PRO TEAM 15. VANENDERT Jelle LOTTO-BELISOL TEAM 16. VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 17. BRAJKOVIC Janez ASTANA PRO TEAM 18. GESINK Robert RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM 19. MONFORT Maxime RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 20. SCHLECK Frank RADIOSHACK-NISSAN Last man home on Stage 3 196. FEILLU Brice SAUR-SOJASUN + 16' 29'' General Classification after Stage 3 1. CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 14h 45' 30'' 2. WIGGINS Bradley SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 07'' 3. CHAVANEL Sylvain OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP + 00' 07'' 4. VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 10'' 5. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 11'' 6. MENCHOV Denis KATUSHA TEAM + 00' 13'' 7. EVANS Cadel BMC RACING TEAM + 00' 17'' 8. NIBALI Vincenzo LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 18'' 9. HESJEDAL Ryder GARMIN-SHARP-BARRACUDA + 00' 18'' 10. KLÖDEN Andréas RADIOSHACK-NISSAN + 00' 19'' Points Classification after Stage 3 1. SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 116 pts 2. CANCELLARA Fabian RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 74 pts 3. CAVENDISH Mark SKY PROCYCLING 73 pts 4. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING 67 pts 5. GOSS Matthew ORICA GREENEDGE 55 pts Mountains Classification after Stage 3 1. MORKOV Michael TEAM SAXO BANK-TINKOFF BANK 9 pts 2. BASSO Ivan LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 2 pts 3. SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE 2 pts 4. URTASUN PEREZ Pablo EUSKALTEL – EUSKADI 1 pt 5. GALLOPIN Tony RADIOSHACK-NISSAN 1 pt Young Riders’ Classification after Stage 3 1. VAN GARDEREN Tejay BMC RACING TEAM 14h 45' 40'' 2. BOASSON HAGEN Edvald SKY PROCYCLING + 00' 01'' 3. TAARAMAE Rein COFIDIS LE CREDIT EN LIGNE + 00' 12'' 4. SAGAN Peter LIQUIGAS-CANNONDALE + 00' 13'' 5. POELS Wouter VACANSOLEIL-DCM + 00' 14''
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.