. Peter Sagan announces himself as a green jersey contender with a stunning victory in stage one.
Cadel Evans moved up from 13th to eighth overall but still trails his main rival Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain by 10 seconds.
SERAING, Belgium: Matt White, the sports director of the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team, now rates Peter Sagan as a serious contender for the Tour de France green jersey as winner of the points competition. However, inexperience could still bring the young Slovakian undone.
STAGE 1 RESULTS | STAGE 2 MAP
In May, White said he believes the green jersey battle would be between Australian Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) and British world champion Mark Cavendish (Sky). But yesterday he added Sagan, 22, after he won the 198km first stage from Liege to Seraing for his 14th season win.
On a tough uphill finish, Sagan beat Swiss yellow jersey wearer Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan), who kept the overall race lead with his second place, and Norwegian Edvald Boasson-Hagen. Best of the Orica-GreenEDGE riders was Australian Simon Gerrans who took 12th place.
Sagan’s stage win (worth 45 points) and 12th place for the intermediate sprint (4 points) after 116.5km took his points tally to 49 – six behind Cancellara.
“Sagan is a big danger. He got a little lost in the intermediate sprint, but if he can win stage three [on Tuesday from Orchies to Boulogne sur Mer] everyone else will be playing catch up. He is a big threat for the green jersey for sure,” said White.
White believes there are chinks in Sagan’s armour.
” I still think with his age, [there is] a little bit of question mark there for three weeks. He has only done one grand tour [to his credit]. At 22 years of age, it is a lot of pressure for three weeks. He was always the favourite today. He is one of the contenders for sure, but he has some weaknesses.”
Of possible concern for Sagan too is that his Liquigas-Cannondale team will be focused on helping Italian Vincenzo Nibali win the Tour overall.
Sagan conceded the Tour was a learning curve.
“I feel the difference … the presence of the public, the numbers, all the journalists waiting for us after the finishing line. And during the race, you see that there is a difference. We are riding faster. There’ a lot of pressure in the bunch in the last kilometres because everybody wanted to be in front for the finish. But it’s not so important. I have 19 stages to discover the tour. So it’s good like that,” said Sagan.
There is pressure on Goss to come up with points, starting in Monday’s flatter second stage, 207.5km from Vise to Tournai. In Sunday’s stage, Goss began by placing seventh in the intermediate sprint for nine points – beating Cavendish and German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Bellisol) – while points for the first six riders to cross the intermediate sprint went to a the breakaway group who escaped during the opening kilometres.
“We are chasing stage wins. [Monday] is the first opportunity for ‘Gossy’. [Sunday’s intermediate] sprint was a good sign he is ready,” White said.
Goss, who is placed 22nd in the green jersey ladder on nine points, is raring to go. He says the opportunity: “is what we have been training for. We will have a real good crack at it. There are some points to make up on the others. We want to win a stage and [Monday] is a good opportunity to try.”
Did he take much from beating Cavendish in Sunday’s intermediate sprint? “It would’ve been better if it was a finish line I beat him across,” he quipped
Meanwhile, defending Australian Tour champion Cadel Evans (BMC) placed 20th and at the same time as Sagan. In the same group were all the major overall contenders, including Briton Bradley Wiggins (Sky) who finished in 16th place and is second overall at 7 seconds to Cancellara.
Evans, whose Belgian teammate Philippe Gilbert was fourth, said: “We were well positioned. The team kept me out of trouble all day, that was the first thing. A conservative starts makes it more hectic just to get into position – everyone is fresher. All the teams can position their guy who is suited to the finish. [Teammate] Marcus Burghardt was doing 75km/h just to move up. To make a difference when there was a bit of headwind … it was difficult.”
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