PETER Sagan was left blaming himself after finishing second to Greg van Avermaet on yesterday’s 13th stage of the Tour de France.
Tour leader Chris Froome (Team Sky) was counting another successful day after finishing sixth and looked ahead to today’s finishing ascent to Mende.
Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo), though, was fuming after Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) held him off to claim victory in stifling heat in south-west France.
Slovakian Sagan, who has not won a stage for two years, said: “I’m not sad. I’m p****d. It’s different. It was my mistake. I was waiting too long to start my sprint.”
The 25-year-old is in the first year of three of his lucrative contract with Tinkoff-Saxo, but, such is owner Oleg Tinkov’s frustration with results, it is rumoured he could be allowed to leave.
Tinkov wrote on Twitter: “I f****** crashed my Bang&Olufsen TV set. The team was working hard, he was well positioned, but...no karma.”
There is a suggestion Sagan could go to Etixx-QuickStep, with Mark Cavendish’s future at the Belgian squad uncertain.
It was the fourth time in the 2015 Tour that Sagan has finished second and 15th in four Tours.
His most recent stage win came on the seventh stage in 2013, yet he has won the points classification in each of the last three races and is in possession of the green jersey again.
He added: “I’m happy to have some points but, for first place, it would be more. If I continued pushing, maybe it could be different. That’s why I am a little bit angry now.”
The crash which saw Jean Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) tumble to the Tarmac, tear his Lycra shorts and expose more than was appropriate before the watershed was a reminder to Froome of the daily perils in the bunch.
And when the peloton was concerned it would not reel in the day’s breakaway, the day became “crazy”, according to Froome.
The 2013 champion said: “What started off as quite an easy, steady stage turned crazy by the end.
“The heat was a big factor, with temperatures up close to 40C.
“We were just trying to send guys back every ten, 15 minutes to get bidons (water bottles). It still felt like it wasn’t enough.
“A 500m climb in the final like that, to see gaps opening up the way they did, already gives us a little bit of an indication of what we can expect tomorrow at Mende.”
Today’s 14th stage, the 178.5km from Rodez to Mende, finishes with a three-kilometre climb before a run-in along an airstrip to the line and Froome expects further attacks on his advantage of two minutes 52 seconds from Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
“It’s going to be a very selective day,” Froome said. “That’s going to be really tough. More than ten per cent for 3km. We can definitely expect it to be another GC (general classification) day again.”
Froome, who also retained the King of the Mountains’ polka dot jersey, had to fight for position on the concluding climb of Saint-Pierre at the end of the 198.5km route. It was 570 metres long at 9.6 per cent – the same average gradient as the punishing Mur de Huy, where Froome finished second on stage three – and the bunch caught the three escapees remaining from the initial six-man breakaway with the finish line in sight.
Sagan’s Tinkoff-Saxo squad and Giant-Alpecin, working for John Degenkolb, led the pursuit, but Van Avermaet proved the strongest as Sagan appeared to slow to a standstill, apparently believing his fifth stage win was in his grasp.
“I tried to go early,” Van Avermaet said. “I saw a wheel but I didn’t see who was there. I knew it would be hard but, once you’re there, you have to keep on going and I was happy he didn’t come over.”