Slovakian Peter Sagan underlined his sprint credentials for the third time on the Tour de France Friday after powering to victory in the 13th stage from Bourg d’Oisans to Valence.
Sagan, of the Bora team, is one of the few real sprint specialists still in the race after surviving an Alpine stage trilogy that proved fatal to the hopes of rivals Mark Cavendish, Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and Dylan Groenewegen.
All the aforementioned exited the race over two tough days in the Alps, and Sagan — who had won two stages on this edition so far — was quick to capitalise.
Sagan, wearing the green jersey for the leader of the points competition that he has won five times previously, was given extra work to do after Belgian upstart Philippe Gilbert (Quick Step) brazenly attacked a leading peloton full of ambitious sprinters 930 metres from the line.
But Sagan, and his rivals didn’t flinch.
They kept the pace high and one-day classics specialist Gilbert was caught with 245m remaining.
The FDJ team of Arnaud Demare had been key in chasing down a relatively tame four-man breakaway in the closing kilometres of the race.
But the Frenchman came up short when it came to payback.
He launched his burst first, but, as Norwegian Alexander Kristoff and Sagan came up on his left, Demare ran out of juice.
Britain’s Geraint Thomas, fresh from winning two stages in the Alps, remained in the leader’s yellow jersey.
Welshman Thomas leads Sky teammate Chris Froome by 1min 39secs, with Dutchman Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) third overall at 1:50.
The 14th stage on Saturday is far more more difficult and technical ride over 188 km between Saint-Paul-Trois-Chateaux to Mende.