Peter Sagan is a breath of fresh air, the accent, the sense of humour, the hair, the bike handling, the speed, the versatility – third behind Cav and Kittel then beating Alaphilippe and Valverde.
There’s no one more deserving than Sagan of the maillot jaune – with all mention of the ‘curse of the rainbow jersey’ forgotten.
The first two stages haven’t been the most riveting viewing, the odd crash along the way the only thing to enliven proceedings before two brilliant finales – Sunday’s more so than Saturday’s.
But the Slovak world champion had some harsh words for his fellow pros after the stage, here’s what he told ‘Peloton’ magazine:
Sagan pulled no punches and said there was a lack of self-policing in the peloton compared to when he first started racing in the professional ranks six years ago.
“It’s like everybody is riding (as if they) lose the brain. There are stupid crashes in the group, it’s very dangerous. When it’s wet nobody brakes — for sure you’re going to crash. It’s not logical.
“In the group, before there was respect. When someone did something stupid, everybody throws their (water) bottle on him or beats him with (tyre) pumps.
“But now cycling has lost this. When I came in cycling in 2010, it was a little bit different.”
The four-time winner of the Tour’s green points jersey complained that too many teams and riders were trying to get involved in bunch sprints at the end of stages.
“There’s no respect in the group. People don’t care about others, they (just) want to stay in the (sprint) train behind their guys.
“In the last 50km there are seven trains in front — all the teams have one!
“They don’t care about the riders. Then, in front, there are a lot of guys don’t know how to (ride) a bike — it’s like that.
“Today I’m in yellow but maybe tomorrow I will go home (after crashing out), this is the Tour de France.”
What’s required is a nouveau Bernard Hinault in the peloton – NO ONE messed with The Badger.
‘Man of the Match’ after the amazing Sagan would have to be Trek’s Jasper Stuyven; away all the day only to be caught in the last kilometre – a heart breaker.
But he did walk away with that nice polka dot jersey and there’s only one fourth cat. climb on Monday so he can’t lose the jersey there; Stage Four has but one fourth cat. too so he should be safe until Stage Five which is seriously lumpy with a fourth, three third and two second cat. ascents – ouch!
Stuyven first shows on the radar as Belgian novice time trial champion in 2007, winning the Belgian novice’s road title one year later and by 2009 was world junior road race champion – beating 2016 Primavera winner, Arnaud Demare (F des J & France) and 2015 Austrian road race champion, Katusha’s Marco Haller.
In 2010 came the junior Paris-Roubaix and he made the podium again in the junior Worlds, bronze behind France’s Olivier Le Gac and Aussie Jay McCarthy – Britain’s Joshua Edmondson was fourth that day.
In 2011 he was third in the U23 Paris-Roubaix before heading to the US for 2012 to ride for Axel Merckx’s team – as did Aex Dowsett several years previously – winning a stage in the Cascade Classic in the US that year and the overall in the tough Volta ao Alentejo in Portugal in 2013.
It was no surprise given Merckx’s association with Trek that Stuyven signed for the Trek World Tour team for season 2014, riding the Vuelta as a neo-pro.
He must have learned well from the experience because he came back to win a Vuelta stage last year, despite breaking his hand in a crash during the stage.
This year he burst on to the stage with a solo Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne win after finishing top ten the day before in Het Nieuwsblad.
He’s the real deal.
On the flip side of the coin it was sad to see long term friend of VeloVeritas, Denmark’s star of road and track, Michael Mørkøv come down hard on stage one; Vik reckoned that would be that and he’d have to quit – but those Russian hard men at Katusha aren’t big into sympathy and cuddles and sure enough Michael was on the start line for Stage Two.
He suffered through it but succumbed inside the last 40 K on those lumpy, grippy Norman roads to finish with another of our chums, Kiwi Shane Archbold (Bora) @ 13:39 – only Archbold’s team mate, Ireland’s Sam Bennett was behind them @ 16:23.
Bennett too went down in a Stage One crash and required stitches – we wish all three riders ‘bon chance’ for Stage Three.
Stage Three is for the fastmen; Robbie McEwen reckons it’ll be Etixx QuickStep’s German flyer Kittel – who with Bob Jungels has the best hair in the peloton – and we know better than to argue with Robbie !