Sagan wins Stage 2 in Tour de France, takes yellow jersey
LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France — A year after leaving the Tour de France in disgrace, Peter Sagan earned the race’s yellow jersey on Sunday after doing what he does best: Powering past the competition to reach the finish line.
The three-time defending world champion took the overall lead of the Tour on Sunday after he bettered about a dozen other sprinters to win Stage 2.
The Slovakian rider’s ninth career win at the Tour came just over a year since he was disqualified from cycling’s most prestigious event by race officials who ruled he had caused a crash that broke Mark Cavendish’s shoulder.
Sagan, however, said there was no revenge factor in mind, and that just wearing yellow was reason enough to celebrate.
“Revenge? I already forgot about last year,” Sagan said. “I’m just happy I can be in the Tour de France, the biggest race in the world.”
Defending champion Chris Froome, who fell into a ditch near the end of Saturday’s Stage 1, arrived safely with most of the peloton.
Sagan came up short in the opening stage’s sprint when he crossed second behind Fernando Gaviria, who won on his Tour debut. And the second stage looked like it would feature another duel between the veteran Sagan and new star Gaviria.
But Gaviria was involved in a group pileup inside the three-kilometer zone that neutralizes the impact of accidents and could do nothing to stop Sagan from claiming a six-second overall lead.
“We expected some crashes in this tricky final and moved up early,” said Enrico Poitschke, sports director of Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team. “This proved to be important as we were able to avoid the last crash. Everything turned out perfect.”
Sagan moved to the front of the small bunch hunting for position, reaching a speed of 57.6 kph on the final 500 meters on his way to the finish line. With Sonny Colbrelli about to catch him, Sagan thrust forward to ensure victory.
“It was really a hard sprint. It was climbing a little bit in a headwind and already the last five kilometers were up and down. It was a mess,” Sagan said. “I was a bit scared because Sonny was coming back strong.”
Sagan won the mostly flat 182.5-kilometer leg from Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to the department capital of La Roche-sur-Yon in 4 hours, 6 minutes, 37 seconds.
Froome is 1:07 behind Sagan’s leading time as he pursues a fifth Tour title. Despite being cleared of doping allegations on Monday, some skeptical fans have jeered the Kenyan-born British rider since his Sky team arrived in France.
Title contenders Vincenzo Nibali, Tom Dumoulin and Romain Bardet are 16 seconds behind Sagan, giving them an early advantage over Froome.
BMC’s Richie Porte is level with Froome with their respective teams looking to do well on the upcoming team time trial.
Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana is 1:31 back after he lost time following the puncture of both his tires near the end of Stage 1.
After the first stage that hugged the Atlantic coast, the race rolled inland through green pastures, forest groves and yellow wheat fields baked by the summer sun.
Sylvain Chavanel, who is making a record 18th Tour appearances, went on a long breakaway and soaked up the applause from the French fans before being absorbed with 13K left.
Ethiopia’s Tsgabu Grmay became the first rider to abandon the race. His Trek-Segafredo team said he was suffering “intense abdominal pain.” Astana climber Luis Leon Sanchez later called it quits after he fell and bloodied his left arm.
The Tour remains in western France for Stage 3 on Monday with a 35.5-kilometer team time trial that starts and finishes in Cholet.
The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed.
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