Peter Sagan of Tinkoff-Saxo padded his legend today with a third stage victory in the 2016 Tour de France, besting Alexander Kristoff of Katusha with a throw of his bike that gained him the centimeter or two that served as his margin of victory. The win elevates Sagan's status as a World Champion on a brilliant title defense, and virtually salts away the green jersey for him as long as he makes it to Paris.
Sondre Holst Enger of IAM Cycling finished a distant third behind the photo finish. John Degenkolb of Giant-Alpecin, still coming back to form, was fourth and Michael Mathews of Orica-Bike Exchange fifth.
The cobbled hill at 3km from the line took what had been a compact peloton entering the Swiss city of Berne and broke things apart, with 58 riders remaining in the front, including several of the top sprinters and overall leader Chris Froome of Sky, who alertly stayed ahead of the split in the field, along with all of his closest competitors. Dimension Data's Mark Cavendish sank to 24th in the bunch and Marcel Kittel of Etixx-Quick Step missed the finale.
Quick review here. I'm not going to lie to you, I missed most of the stage, though I do understand that Tony Martin and Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx Quick Step staged a long breakaway that animated much of the stage. After being reeled in there were several more attacks but the stage gave too much incentive to too many riders, being in Switzerland (home to IAM Cycling and stars like Fabian Cancellara) as well as being the day before a rest day.
Sagan, ever alert, was among those who saw the acceleration on the climb in Berne, as was Kristoff. The two were the last two winners of the Ronde van Vlaanderen, known for its cobbled hills, and were the most comfortable riders assailing the line. Kristoff came up the left barrier, after Sagan had been left on the front behind Warren Barguil of Giant-Alpecin, pulling for Degenkolb until the 1km mark. Sagan came straight up the middle, and it was a two-up charge to the line. Kristoff pumped his fist, knowing he'd been ahead but not knowing of Sagan's last-ditch throw of this bike at the line. A few minutes elapsed before the answer was revealed: that the Slovakian had won again.
Sagan becomes the seventh world champion to win at least three stages. The victory was also his seventh in his career, while Kristoff, who won two stages in 2014, is stuck on that total. Enger, just 22, is getting closer to his first win, though it will be tough sledding against elite competition at the Tour.
Tomorrow is a rest day and the hostilities resume with a mountain-top finish on Wednesday.
GC: No changes