Peter Sagan won a second stage at the Tour de France as Chris Froome stretched his overall lead. Sagan beat Froome to the line after they were part of a four-man breakaway that surprised the Briton’s main rivals.
Chasing a third Tour triumph after victories in 2013 and 2015, Froome gained six seconds on his rivals as well picking up six more bonus seconds at the end of a blustery 162.5-kilometer 11thstage from Carcassonne to Montpellier.
With around 12 kms remaining, Froome and Sky team mate Geraint Thomas joined the Tinkoff duo of Sagan and Maciej Bodnar in a breakaway that appeared to catch the likes of Movistar rider Nairo Quintana off guard.
Slovakian Sagan, the current world champion and the winner of stage two, easily won the sprint ahead of Froome, with Bodnar coming in third and Thomas fourth.
Impressive tactical display
It was another impressive tactical display from Froome, who won Saturday’s eighth stage when he attacked on a downhill finish.
Sagan, who retained the green jersey for the points classification leader, called the final part of the stage “crazy” and said there had been no pre-meditated plan to mount a breakaway with Froome.
“Froomey and Geraint came with us and I said ‘We are too strong they are never going to catch us’,” Sagan told reporters.
“Se we pulled hard and it happened. There was a crazy wind and it was not planned to go in a break with green and yellow and Geraint and Bodnar. You cannot plan that it just happens.”
Froome now leads compatriot Adam Yates (Orica BikeExchange) by 28 seconds in the overall standings, with Ireland’s Dan Martin (Etixx Quick Step) a further three seconds back in third. Colombian Quintana is four seconds behind Martin in fourth.
Sagan, meanwhile, looks to have the green jersey all-but sown up after Briton Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) was denied a shot at a fourth stage win by a mechanical problem near the end.
Thursday’s 12th stage, which takes place on Bastille Day, was due to scale the iconic Mont Ventoux summit to just under 2,000 meters but has been shortened because of forecast high winds.
The ride from Montpellier will end at Chalet Reynard, about 15.5 km into the 21.5-km ascent, organizers said.
“It’s the right thing to do for safety,” Froome said. “Everyone wants to see a great show but the most important thing for the riders is safety.”