Peter Sagan made it a dream Tour de France debut by winning stage one in to Seraing on Sunday. The finish line, at the top of a 2.4km climb, had many people predicting a Slovak success – not bad for a 22-year-old who’s never ridden the Tour before.
Sagan may still be young, but his sprinting is only bettered by his tactical astuteness. He kept himself near the front of the bunch as the speed increased in to the bottom of the category four climb and was the only rider to jump on Fabian Cancellara’s wheel when the Swiss rider launched his attack.
Cancellara’s attack surprised many as all eyes were on Cadel Evans, Philippe Gilbert and those who feature in the Ardennes classics that play out in these hills every April.
It came at 1.4km to go, and only Sagan went at the right time. Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen did it the hard way, riding across the gap to the two riders single-handedly.
The Norwegian only had to ride down Cancellara though (although there’s not many men in the peloton who can do that) as Sagan was sitting on the wheel of the yellow jersey.
For a 22-year-old to sit on the wheel of one of the biggest names in the peloton, and refuse to give the yellow jersey and help, illustrates Sagan’s third killer characteristic – confidence. On a massive scale.
It was, in fact, a flashback to Milan-San Remo in March when Simon Gerrans (who was fancied today) sat on the RadioShack rider’s wheel all the way to the finish line and then sprinted past him.
Cancellara is never willing to sit up in such a situation and was forced to ride the final kilometre on the front. It’s not the best tactic, but an impressive way to show off the yellow jersey. And the reason he is one of the most popular riders in the peloton.
He did manage to hold off Boasson Hagen who, seemingly paying for his effort to ride across, couldn’t make any impression in the sprint and finished third.
Behind the trio, Philippe Gilbert came in at the front of a select group of around 40 riders. One year ago it was Gilbert who was untouchable on finishes like this – it goes to show how quickly things can change in the peloton.
That group included Cadel Evans, who had done a lot of work on the front of that group, and a very calm looking Bradley Wiggins. The Briton, easy to spot in the green jersey and bright yellow helmet (that Team Sky had to wear as leaders of the team classification), was a little out of position near the bottom of the climb, but rode himself back to the front by the time they hit the line.
Monday’s stage two takes the riders from Visé to Tournai on a largely flat 207.5km route that features just one category four climb before the mid-way point. Stage two preview>>
Tour de France 2012, stage one: Liege to Seraing 198km
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Liquigas in 4-58-19
2. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) RadioShack-Nissan
3. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing
5. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
8. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
9. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp
10. Dries Devenyns (Bel) Omega Pharma-Quickstep all at same time
16. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at same time
95. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-25
128. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky at 2-07
155. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 3-01
168. Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 3-41
Overall classification after stage one
1. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) RadioShack-Nissan 5-05-32
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Team Sky at 7 sec
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma QuickStep at same time
4. Tejay Van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 10 sec
5. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Team Sky at 11 sec
6. Denis Menchov (Rus) Katusha at 13 sec
7. Philippe Gilbert (Bel) BMC Racing at same time
8. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing at 17 sec
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas at 18 sec
10. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Garmin-Sharp at same time
84. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 1-41
106. Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Sky at 2-30
144. David Millar (GBr) Garmin-Sharp at 3-19
158. Stephen Cummings (GBr) BMC Racing at 3-59
Nicolas Edet heads the day’s six-man escape group
Peter Sagan wins the 2012 Tour’s first road stage
Fabian Cancellara maintains his overall lead
Tour de France 2012: Coverage index
Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
CW’s Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage one photo gallery by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule