Tour de France 2017 Stage 3
Okay, this is the Sagan entry. Going to turn it into two parts, let’s call them, Three and Four.
As in Stage 3: this was the first complicated sprint of the TdF, when I say complicated, not a complete drag-race-speedfest but more of a punchy-uphill-Ardennes-like finish. That narrows down the contenders, as it is a more specialised affair that requires not only speed but massive aerobic capabilities, don’t get me wrong, the fastest sprinters have phenomenal aerobic engines but they’re also racing against different types of professional cyclists who are purely aerobic monsters, aka climbers, time trial specialists, and GT racers, but in between are the types of GVA, Dan Martin, Michael Matthews, Philippe Gilbert and of course, Peter Sagan, the only one who can also legitimately match the drag-race-speedfest guys.
As predicted it came down to the usual suspects, Sagan, GVA, Dan Martin, Michael Matthews, only Gilbert was missing, but what we got to see was something pure Saganesque. With 400m to go he found himself on the front isolated, he had no team mates left and he was in a textbook SNAFU situation, well for any other rider. If you look back at the footage you will see this very situation arise, yet, remarkably, Sagan look like he’s on a training ride and has been caught out for the village sign, as the camera pans back you can see the maximal effort of the other contenders, they are out the saddle with the faces contorted in all sorts of shapes.
Sagan, as only Sagan can, simply waited, remaining calm, lucid, and completely in control of what for any other rider would be an endgame situation. He kept glancing backwards while holding his worst-case scenario position awaiting the sprint to kick off from behind, the moment it did, he launched. Only the launch was so explosive he ripped his foot out of the pedal. FOR ANY OTHER RIDER THAT’S IT: GAME OVER.
Somehow, within tenths (or less) of a second he was planted back into his pedal, it is incomprehensible to me, or any other professional cyclists to fathom this. The tiniest error in a TdF finish means defeat, a foot out is complete disaster. Yet the moment he was back in, he unleashed a second wind, more of a hurricane, you can see his body language change and for a rare moment, just a moment, we got to saw Sagan in full flight, dare I say, angry. It was the briefest of moments yet the absolute force was, for once, truly evident to see.
Needless to say, he won. As only the reigning UCI World Champion can, once again securing his status as the most skilled professional bike racer in the world.
As in Stage 4: the UCI made the wrong decision and manage (barely manage) to ban their very own World Champion from the Tour de France (the one jersey they own in the World Tour). I will come back to this, when I have a bit more time later, but in the mean time, I will give you Jens Voigt’s view on it, one I captured about an hour and a half after Stage 4. Have a look at the Stage 4 RACING REVIEW entry for the video with Jens Voigt explaining his opinion on the matter.