Peter Sagan claims Tour de France yellow jersey after Stage 2 win

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CHERBOURG-EN-COTENTIN, France — World champion Peter Sagan made the most of a steep, short climb in a frenzied finale to win the second stage of the Tour de France and claim the race leader’s yellow jersey on Sunday.

Sagan, who pulled on the coveted shirt for the first time, used his power on the 1.9-kilometer Cote de la Glacerie leading to the finish line to claim the win.

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe, who started the final sprint, was second in the 183-kilometer stage between Saint-Lo and Cherbourg-en-Cotentin in Normandy, with Spaniard Alejandro Valverde in third place.

A debutant at the Tour, Alaphilippe made his move on the left side of the road. Sagan waited patiently in his wake before timing his acceleration to perfection to overtake the Frenchman and win by a bike’s length.

“I’m very surprised I won because I was thinking there were still two guys in front,” said Sagan, who did not celebrate as he crossed the line. “The team today made a very big job. Roman Kreuziger did the last climb full gas and in the final I did my best — for third place… It’s unbelievable. I’m already wearing a very nice jersey, but yellow is something special.”

Two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador, who crashed for a second consecutive day, was dropped in the final climb and lost 48 seconds.

Belgian Jasper Stuyven, who was part of an early breakaway group that formed after the start of the stage, almost thwarted Sagan’s plans when he tried to go for a solo win, but was reined in with 500 meters left.

Overnight leader Mark Cavendish finished just behind BMC co-leader Richie Porte, who was among the big losers of day, crossing the finish line 1 minute and 45 seconds behind Sagan after a puncture.

Cavendish started the day with a four-second lead over Marcel Kittel, with Sagan in third place, six seconds behind. The Slovak rider now has an 8-second lead over Alaphilippe, with Valverde in third place 10 seconds back.

Chris Froome, last year’s Tour winner, is fifth overall after Sunday’s stage, 14 seconds behind Sagan.

All 198 riders took the start in Saint-Lo under grey skies but Cavendish brought a splash of color to the scene.

Wearing yellow for the first time, the Briton marked the special occasion with a customized bike featuring yellow handlebar and pedals.

Stuyven and three other riders immediately broke away from the peloton on slippery roads near the English Channel as rain started to fall. Paul Voss, Vegard Breen, Cesare Benedetti and Stuyven built a lead of about six minutes before the peloton started to pull them back.

Voss, who spent most of the opening day at the front of the race, was made to pay for his efforts and was dropped in the climb to the summit of the Cote de Montpinchon.

He managed to rejoin the leading group while a crash split the main peloton in two after 60 kilometers. Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez and Contador, who suffered cuts and bruises on his right shoulder in a crash during Stage 1, were among the riders caught up in the incident.

Contador fell on the same shoulder and was forced to change bike. He was helped back into the pack by five Tinkoff teammates as the pace slowed down at the front.

“It’s not ideal but he’s fine,” Tinkoff sports director Sean Yates said. “It’s not good to fall two days in a row, but we hope this was the last time.”

There were some broad smiles on the riders’ faces as the sun finally broke through the clouds with 100 kilometers left, drying the roads and warming bodies in the peloton.

The pace in the bunch barely moved until 55 kilometers to go when Cavendish’s Dimension Data outfit started to push forward.

The peloton’s chase started a bit late, as the final battle shaped up with rain falling again and Stuyven almost upseting all the favorites.

“I felt a little bit empty on the steep part,” said Stuyven, who made his breakthrough last year when he won a stage at the Spanish Vuelta. “Unfortunately, I was 450 meters short.”

Little boy goes wild watching dad in Tour de France

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Bauke Mollema wasn’t the only one putting on a show at the Tour de France.

Mollema received plenty of support back home as his son went absolutely crazy watching his “papa” push to victory in Stage 15. As it is with siblings, Mollema’s oldest son, Julian, was forced to share the spot light as Thomas got emotional watching his dad finally earn a coveted stage win.

Amidst the blood, sweat and tears that have made up the 2017 Tour de France, Mollema’s adorable 2-year-old son, Thomas gave the internet something to smile about.

The Tour de France has “always been the most important race for [Mollema]” and his dreams came true when he had an impressive break away to solidify the first stage win of his career.

Clearly, Mollema was not the only one excited for his first victory.

 

Cavendish involved in nasty crash after elbow from Sagan

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VITTEL, France (AP) A nasty crash involving Mark Cavendish marred Tuesday’s fourth stage of the Tour de France, which was won by France’s Arnaud Demare in a chaotic sprint finish.

Replays appeared to show world champion Peter Sagan elbowing Cavendish, who was squeezed against the barriers to his right, out of the way. Cavendish slammed into the barriers and two other riders plowed over the British sprint specialist, a winner of 30 Tour stages.

Sagan, who crossed the line second, was later given a 30-second penalty that relegated him to 115th place on the stage. As a result, he dropped from second place in the overall standings to 15th.

“I get on with Peter well, but I don’t get … if he came across is one thing, but the elbow. I’m not a fan of him putting his elbow in me like that,” Cavendish said.

“A crash is a crash, I’d just like to know about the elbow, really,” Cavendish added. “I’d just like to speak to him about it.”

After the crash, Sagan went over to see how Cavendish was and patted him on the back, while the British rider showed him his wounds.

The Slovak said later he had apologized to Cavendish.

“It’s not nice to crash like that,” Sagan said.

“It’s the sprint. I just didn’t know that Mark is behind me, he’s coming from the right side,” Sagan added. “Mark was coming pretty fast from the back and after I just didn’t have time to react, to go left, and he just came (into) me and after into the fence.”

A medical team quickly ran out to treat Cavendish, jogging into the oncoming stream of riders to reach him.

When Cavendish was finally helped to his feet, his jersey was badly torn and blood was streaking down his side. Cavendish rode in with a teammate after treatment, gingerly holding his right arm close to his body, with his right hand in a bandage.

It’s already been a difficult year for Cavendish, who came down with mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus in April.

Demare’s sprint victory ended a long wait for the home fans, with the previous French victory in a bunch sprint at the Tour being won by Jimmy Casper in Stage 1 in Strasbourg in 2006.

“It’s extraordinary, it’s marvelous,” said Demare, the French champion who finished second to Marcel Kittel in the mass sprint that concluded Stage 2.

There was another crash earlier that delayed Tour leader Geraint Thomas, but the Welshman retained the yellow jersey since it happened in the neutral zone near the stage finish.

Thomas leads Sky teammate and three-time champion Chris Froome by 12 seconds, with third-place Michael Matthews of Australia also 12 seconds back. Sagan is now 43 seconds adrift.

Thomas scraped his knee but said it was OK.

“I hit the deck but I’m fine,” Thomas said.

Demare clocked nearly five hours over the largely flat 207.5-kilometer (129-mile) route, which started and finished in two spa towns, Mondorf-les-Bains in Luxembourg and Vittel in France.

“We’ve been working with Arnaud for a long time on sprints,” said Marc Madiot, manager of Demare’s FDJ team. “Winning in the Tour is the best.”

After Sagan’s penalty, Alexander Kristoff moved up to second place in the stage, with Andre Greipel in third.

After starting in Mondorf, the hometown of 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck, one of the first towns along the route was Schengen, where an agreement was signed in 1985 that enabled passport-free travel in mainland Europe.

Then it was a long, fairly straight slog through fields of grain, passing near the medieval city of Nancy into Vittel, home of the official mineral water supplier for the Tour.

It was the race’s third consecutive stage of more than 200 kilometers (125 miles) and when Guillaume van Keirsbulck, a Belgian with the Wanty team, attacked from the starting gun there was no reaction from the pack.

Van Keirsbulck quickly built a lead of more than seven minutes before being caught with less than 17 kilometers to go.

“A really hard day,” Van Keirsbulck said. “It’s not easy to stay in the front.”

Stage 5 on Wednesday concludes with the first serious climb of the Tour. The 160.5-kilometer (100-mile) leg begins in Vittel and winds its way to La Planche Des Belles Filles with a short but steep finishing ascent that features a leg-breaking 20-percent gradient in the final meters. All of the overall favorites should swing into action.