Fri, Jul 12, 2019 - Page 16 News List

Sagan wins fifth stage of Tour de France

AFP, COLMAR, France

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan celebrates as he crosses the finish line in Colmar to win the fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday.

Photo: AP

Slovakia’s Peter Sagan on Wednesday kept enough strength in reserve in the hills of Alsace to win a reduced bunch sprint for his 12th overall Tour de France stage win.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe held on to the leader’s yellow jersey and even had a tilt at the stage win with a downhill charge following the final climb.

Alaphilippe, who on Wednesday was again cheered throughout by French fans, was to start as the leader for yesterday’s first real mountain test, which was to conclude with a tough summit finish in the Vosges.

“My legs are killing me. Tomorrow is going to be a huge test, for me and everyone,” said Alaphilippe, who took the overall lead on Monday with a gun-slinging offensive from 15km out.

“It’s also hard talking to the press half the evening after a race, which makes me respect people like Chris Froome,” the 27-year-old former soldier said of the four-time Tour de France winner, who has spent 59 stages in the storied jersey, but who is out of contention after a severe crash last month.

Sagan’s win will be popular with fans following two near misses so far for the charismatic three-time world champion and six-time green sprint jersey winner.

“I try every day, and then one day you get it,” said the burly Sagan, who had a slow start to the season due to sickness. “I suffered a bit in the climbs, but I had to get into the sprint, I was patient. I’m 47 points ahead in the race for the green jersey now.”

Sagan turned on the power from 150m out to beat pre-race favorites including Team Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert, a breakout star of the race who came second, while Italy’s Matteo Trentin came third.

Van Aert, riding in his debut Tour de France since converting from cyclo-cross, moved to within 14 seconds of the overall lead and maintained his under-25 white jersey as the buzz around him continues to grow.

“I know this region and all the climbs, and they have made it even harder,” Van Aert said of yesterday’s mountain-packed run.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas and his Team Ineos cocaptain Egan Bernal finished safely in the pack in Colmar after a stage that passed through vineyards and villages of picturesque half-timbered houses.

A parasol was blown by a gust of wind into the racing peloton of riders, hitting Frenchman Tony Gallopin, who escaped any real damage.

Thomas was typically dry when asked what he expected as the peloton headed off in the morning, saying: “I’m expecting the worst and hoping for the best.”

This year’s race, with little time-trialling and mountains galore, should prove a climber’s dream.

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