Sagan wins opening Tour stage
New Australian team Orica-GreenEDGE gambled and lost on stage one of the Tour de France as Slovakian Peter Sagan continued his meteoric rise.
Sagan, 22, became the youngest stage winner in the Tour since Lance Armstrong in 1993 when he outsprinted overall leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack Nissan) and Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky).
Defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC) stayed out of trouble to finish 20th in the front group and Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans was the top Australian with 13th place.
Another to impress in the pulsating stage was Michael Rogers (Sky), who recovered from a crash with 23km left to finish 22nd.
Evans remained 17 seconds behind Cancellara overall but improved to 8th place as other rivals dropped back.
British rider Bradley Wiggins (Sky) remained second overall, seven seconds down, and France’s Sylvain Chavanel remained third with the same time.
Gerrans’ Swiss team-mate Michael Albasini made the most of some strong teamwork and reacted to an attack from Chavanel (Omega Pharma Lotto) at the foot of the steep 2.5km climb to the finish at Seraing in Belgium.
That only sparked the key move from Cancellara, who quickly overtook Chavanel and Albasini.
Sagan (Liquigas Cannondale) and Boasson Hagen joined Cancellara, who frantically signalled for the Slovakian to take a turn at the front.
But Sagan bided his time and sprinted to the win as the peloton was closing quickly at the end of the 198km ride.
Albasini dropped back to 50th.
“You’ve got to gamble – we knew Chavanel would try something, being seven seconds off the lead,” said Orica-GreenEDGE director Matt White.
“‘Alba’ made the decision to go with him and probably paid for it in the final.
“But the boys did a really good (putting him) in a good position.”
Another pleasing sign for Orica-GreenEDGE was a small victory for Matt Goss, their main hope for a stage win and a green jersey contender.
A breakaway group of six riders dominated the stage before they were caught with 9km left and they took the main points at the intermediate sprint.
Goss then outsprinted several of his rivals, including Sky star Mark Cavendish, to take seventh and earn nine points.
Sagan confirmed he is the man to beat for the green jersey by scoring 45 with his stage win.
“Sagan is a big danger,” White said of the green jersey.
“I still think with his age, there’s a little bit of a question mark for three weeks.”
Rogers was caught in a crash with two other riders, but managed to catch the front group.
“Crash No.1 out of the way. Donated some skin to the Belgian road system. Was lucky to get back to the front before the final climb,” Rogers tweeted.© AAP 2013
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