Peter Sagan cuts Sam Bennett’s lead but Soren Kragh Andersen wins stage 14
The battle for the green jersey defined stage 14 of the Tour de France as Peter Sagan ate into Sam Bennett’s advantage while Soren Kragh Andersen struck out for stage victory in Lyon.
The 194-kilometre stage from Clermont-Ferrand did nothing to alter Primoz Roglic’s status in yellow but saw Sagan claw back 23 points on Bennett to cut his deficit in the points classification to 43.
Sagan’s domination of green in recent years has made the competition all but an afterthought, but this time around it could go all the way to Paris and play a key role in shaping the final week of the Tour.
Saturday’s rolling stage looked tailor-made for a breakaway to prosper and for the overall hopefuls to enjoy a relatively stress-free day after Friday’s summit finish on the Puy Mary and the challenge of the Grand Colombier to come on Sunday, but instead the hammer was down from flag to finish.
Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team worked furiously to drop Bennett on the short climb before the intermediate sprint 38km in, then kept charging on to ensure the Irishman could not get back into the peloton – abandoning his push 80km from Lyon.
Sagan never sat up as he eyed further points on the finish line, though the former world champion would be denied his shot at victory as Team Sunweb’s Kragh Andersen got away from the reduced peloton in the final kilometres to follow up on team-mate Marc Hirschi’s stage 12 victory on Thursday.
The sprint for second place was taken by Luka Mezgec, with Sagan rolling in fourth for another strong haul of points.
“I was fourth in the end I think, and it was the best place I could do,” Sagan said. “It was like every sprint, you fight for the position but in the end it was fine.
“The goal was to take more points but it’s never easy in the Tour de France. Everybody is going so hard but thanks to all my team-mates, it was a very great job.”
Bennett eventually rolled in as part of a group almost 20 minutes later, happy to have saved energy once he recognised the peloton was out of reach.
“It was a hard day,” the Deceuninck-QuickStep rider said. “I still had a much better day than yesterday, sensation-wise. Yesterday I was dead; this morning I was a new man.
“In the first intermediate sprint I saw what Bora was doing, trying to harm me, so I let them go…
“Later on, I missed one last kilometre on the long climb and there I lost my chance. Today didn’t take a lot out of me, I feel well after all…I hope tomorrow is an easier day.”
In terms of the battle for green, Sunday’s stage certainly should be less stressful, but the terrain will not make it easy for anyone as they head to another summit finish.
With that in mind the main contenders could have used an easier day than this.
“Today for us was a really hard day,” said Roglic, who leads by 44 seconds from fellow Slovenian Tadej Pogacar, and 59 seconds from defending champion Egan Bernal.
“I thought maybe it would be a little easier after yesterday but it was full-gas racing.”
Bernal surrendered 38 seconds to Roglic and Pogacar on the Puy Mary on Friday, but looked to send a message with a late dig on the final slope in Lyon before dropping back into the main group.
“It was not the plan but in the last climb I felt good and I tried,” the Ineos Grenadiers rider said.
“I didn’t think too much about the attack, I just went. I need to enjoy the race and I really enjoyed the last part. We need to stay focused and fight until Paris.”
As the fight for yellow and green continued on the road, off it there were concerns for rider safety and a growing debate over the sport’s concussion protocols.
Frenchman Romain Bardet withdrew from the race late on Friday night following a high-speed crash on stage 13, having ridden to the finish after the spill.
The 29-year-old posted on social media on Saturday that he had suffered a “small brain haemorrhage” in the crash, though he later amended the post to remove mention of a haemorrhage.