With one week to go, there is so much to race for in this Tour de France for everyone. Well, almost everyone. The man breaking no sweat is Peter Sagan.
He could ride to Paris pulling a wheelie, finishing in the gruppetto each day, and still win the green jersey comfortably. He has three stage wins, helping to him almost three times the points of closest challenger Alexander Kristoff.
Sagan certainly doesn’t need to be infiltrating breakaways on mountain stages to add to his tally. But as a racer at heart, he wants to be there.
So, Stage 15 between Millau and Carcassonne, was the second middle mountain day in a row that he joined the escape – just. As the breakaway gained its freedom after an exhausting hour of skirmishes, Sagan was the one who charged down the left gutter, sprinting across the whole gap with several riders in tow including, crucially, his Bora-Hansgrohe team-mate Rafal Majka.
It was akin to someone clinging onto the rope of a steamboat leaving port and hauling himself – and everyone else – on board. While rival Arnaud Démare chased the bunch, the Slovakian was up the road again.
The green machine took 15 more points at the intermediate sprint but also gave Majka a perfect foil. The Polish climber attacked on the Pic de Nore and was up the road solo until 15 kilometres to go.
It wasn’t to be for him, and Sagan himself dropped back after the Pic de Nore summit, unwilling to waste energy or nerve. Shame, as it would have been exciting to see him racing that technical descent full pelt.
It’s easy to take his procession to a sixth green jersey for granted. But amid the Sagan domination to which we’re accustomed, this could well be his best and biggest green jersey win – his three stage wins equal his best tally in a single Tour and he’s shown even greater consistency, with a mind-boggling 12 top-ten finishes in the fifteen stages we’ve had so far.
Terrifyingly for his rivals, Peter Sagan seems to be getting better. Simply, there’s no answer to the Slovakian when he’s in this mood and form.
The Rouleur Top Banana goes to an unsung hero of each stage of the Tour de France – not the winner, not the yellow jersey – but a rider whose efforts deserve recognition
Tour de France 2018, Rouleur Top Bananas: