World champion Peter Sagan on Sunday said he had three reasons to be cheerful as he won the second stage and took the overall leader’s maillot jaune in front of family and friends from Slovakia on the Tour de France.
Sagan edged Sonny Colbrelli in a reduced sprint finish at La Roche-sur-Yon after a late crash in the peloton.
Overnight leader Fernando Gaviria came down in a mass crash just 1.3km from the line, which Sagan and about 15 other riders avoided to set up a frantic finish.
Sagan leads Gaviria by six seconds in the general classification, with defending champion Chris Froome trailing by 1 minute, 7 seconds.
Froome avoided a repeat of his first-stage tumble, the Team Sky leader staying out of trouble as he goes in pursuit of a record-equaling fifth Tour triumph.
The Kenyan-born Briton said he was in good shape despite his first-stage woes.
“I’m feeling good. It’s obviously never much fun crashing,” Froome said in a lighthearted moment on the team bus.
“The legs feel good and I’m optimistic about what is to come, hopefully,” he said.
Another Briton Adam Yates was delayed by a fall, while two of his Mitchelton-Scott teammates were both also involved in separate falls.
Sagan, riding for the Bora-Hansgrohe team, edged a field of nine lined up for the final reckoning, but had to deal with French specialist Arnaud Demare and Italy’s Colbrelli, who came within a hair’s breadth of the win with a daring last-second wheel push.
“It was something special with my father here and friends from my hometown,” Sagan said. “It was also our last realistic chance to get the yellow jersey with the team time trial tomorrow.”
“It’s a great start for the fans,” he said. “Fernando won yesterday and now I’m the one with the yellow jersey, it’s been exciting.”
“I could see it was going to be a good year,” said Sagan, who was thrown off the Tour last year after being judged culpable of a fall that ended fellow sprinter Mark Cavendish’s race.
“This makes up for last year,” he said, adding that he had not seen the crash. “My team got me into the mix, then Arnaud Demare went for it first and I just tried to stay on his wheel. It was a mess over those last five kilometers all up and down, and then going up the hill there was a headwind.”
The Slovakian led the peloton in the intermediate sprint behind solo escapee French veteran Sylvain Chavanel and is now also top of the maillot vert standings.
Alongside Froome and Tom Dumoulin, Sagan is perhaps cycling’s top star and he has won the maillot vert five times.
Overnight leader Gaviria, who is just 23, said he was happy to be in the maillot blanc for best young rider.
“We’re happy, we had the yellow and that’s part of history. Tomorrow’s another day,” he said, with his Quick-Step Floors team amongst the favorites to win the team time trial.
The stage began in sizzling heat with local hero Chavanel of Team Direct Energie, which is based in the Vendee region, being cheered all along the 155km of a solo break.
Luis Leon Sanchez of Astana pulled out of the race after falling on a traffic island and getting up covered in cuts.
Ethiopia’s Tsgabu Grmay of Trek-Segafredo also retired.
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