Serene Sagan sprints to dramatic stage win despite slip-up
Peter Sagan showed incredible composure to overcome a dramatic slip-up and sprint to victory on stage three of the Tour de France, while Geraint Thomas kept hold of the yellow jersey.
World champion Sagan saw his right foot unclip from the pedal when commencing a sprint for the line but stayed cool and managed to hold off Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) and Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors) to win the 212.5-kilometre route from Verviers to Longwy.
The reigning five-time points classification winner closed the gap to Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) in the green jersey, while Team Sky rider Thomas will stay in yellow despite team-mate Chris Froome lurking among his closest rivals.
Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac) picked up the first King of the Mountains point after the riders ventured onto the iconic Formula One circuit of Spa-Francorchamps - a tribute to racing driver Jacky Ickx, a close friend of cycling legend Eddy Merckx.
Nils Politt (Katusha-Alpecin) won the intermediate sprint at Wincrange in Luxembourg and outsprinted Frederick Backaert up the category-four Cote de Wiltz, before Brown beat him in an attack of Cote d'Eschdorf to take his KOM points haul for the stage to three.
The duo were reeled in and dropped by Thomas De Gendt, Romain Hardy, Pierre-Luc Perichon and Lilian Calmejane, who went solo before being caught with 10km to go.
Bora-Hansgrohe positioned themselves for Sagan to sprint for the line on the final climb, and the Slovakian finished the job despite a nervy moment.
GOOD DAY / BAD DAY
Romain Bardet, the 2016 runner-up, was involved in Sunday's pile-up that included yellow jersey wearer Thomas and defending champion Froome, and he encountered more problems on Monday.
A mechanical issue caused the AG2R La Mondiale rider's latest woes and resulted in him changing bike and falling off the back of the peloton.
Bardet's team-mates hung around to help him make it back to the pack, though it brought a premature end to any hopes he had of mounting a strong finish.
1. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 5:07:19
2. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)
3. Daniel Martin (Quick-Step Floors)
4. Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
5. Alberto Bettiol (Cannondale Drapac) 5:07:21
1. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) 10:00:31
2. Chris Froome (Team Sky) +0:12
3. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) +0:12
1. Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) 66 points
2. Arnaud Demare (FDJ) 57 points
3. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 50 points
KING OF THE MOUNTAINS
1. Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Drapac) 3 points
2. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 2 points
3. Taylor Phinney (Cannondale-Drapac) 2 points
Things will be flatter during the 207.5km ride from Mondorf-les-Bains to Vittel after the first hilly stage of this year's competition.