Sagan surges to Tour triumph
Cancellara takes second to retain overall lead
Last Updated: July 2, 2012 5:29pm
Peter Sagan: Celebrates his first stage win on what is his Tour de France debut
Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) highlighted his all-round talents when powering to victory on the first stage proper of the Tour de France.
The 22-year-old Slovak has racked up numerous victories already this season but this was his first on cycling's biggest stage.
The uphill and technical finish to the 198 kilometres route from Liege to Seraing always looked like playing to his strengths and so it proved as he latched onto the yellow jersey of Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) when the Swiss star, winner of the opening prologue, jumped clear of the pack with 1.5km to go.
They quickly put daylight between themselves and the rest and the only man able to bridge the gap was Team Sky's Edvald Boasson Hagen.
The three riders had it between them but Sagan had been able to conserve the most energy and he made it count at the finish, with Cancellara second and Boasson Hagen third.
"Of course people told me I was the favourite," Sagan said afterwards.
"I wanted to attack at the hardest section.
"It was very, very good that Cancellara was there. I saw that he had strong legs. It was good to take it easy behind him.
"I'm just happy that it went so well today.
"I won and I have to thank team-mates who helped me a lot to get to the foot of the climb at the front of the bunch."
Top of GC unchanged
Cancellara continues to lead the overall standings by seven seconds from Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) and Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), with Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) still fourth and in the young rider's jersey, just ahead of Boasson Hagen.
Team Sky were wearing yellow helmets as leaders of the team classification and they continue to lead the way in those standings, with Michael Rogers and Kanstantsin Siutsou also finishing in the front group.
Cancellara tops the sprint standings by six points from Sagan, while world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) picked up his first points of the race at the intermediate sprint.
Cavendish was the second member of the peloton over the line with 81.5km to go, with Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE) beating his former HTC-Highroad team-mate to the line.
Ahead of them Yohann Gene (Europcar) had led at the intermediate sprint to claim 20 points, with Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis), Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun), Maxime Bouet (Ag2r La Mondiale) and Michael Morkov (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), who leads the first mountains classification, also in the day's six-man breakaway.
That escape group had gone clear from the off and despite being held up by a level crossing after 24km they were able to extend their advantage to just under five minutes.
However with RadioShack-Nissan controlling the chase the gap came down rapidly in the closing stages and they were caught with just under 10km remaining.
By then a couple of crashes and some crosswinds had disrupted things in the main pack, which was to lead to a number of GC hopefuls losing time on the day.
BMC Racing and Orica-GreenEDGE both came to the fore when it was all back together but the first big attack off the front in the closing stages came from Chavanel with 2km to go.
He was soon reeled in and it was the next counter-attack from Cancellara which proved to be the defining move as he, Sagan and Boasson Hagen took centre stage.