Sagan strikes again; Thomas stays on top

Kristopher Nichols
July 23, 2018

This past December a leak of Chris Froome's medical data revealed the four-time Tour de France champion had recorded an adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at the Vuelta a España.

Fourth-placed Primoz Roglic was the only overall contender to gain time, finishing eight seconds ahead of Thomas, Froome, and third-placed Tom Dumoulin - with all four riders finishing more than 18 minutes behind stage victor Omar Fraile, who remained far back in the standings.

"We're not racing in the stadium or on a track, so it's a bit hard to control everybody, especially on the last climb", Sagan said Friday after claiming his third stage win of this edition and 11th of his career with a powerful sprint to the line in Valence.

On Thursday race leader Geraint Thomas was booed off the podium after claiming his second successive Alpine stage to reinforce his grip on the yellow jersey following another dominant Team Sky display. Reading comments on social media from people saying: "'Since justice wasn't served, we'll serve it from the side of the road.' That's basically an outright threat", he said.

Sagan's 11th career win at the world's biggest bike race came after he was the fastest to the line in bunch sprints on Stages 2 and 5. Froome initially held back, marking counter-moves from AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet and UAE Team Emirates' Dan Martin before leaving them both behind and catching Dumoulin.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is still wearing the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the Tour de France
Christophe Ena Team Sky's Geraint Thomas is still wearing the yellow jersey as the overall leader of the Tour de France

On the second of those days, Froome was spat at and was lucky not to crash after one fan slapped him heavily on the back as he raced the 13.8km ascent to the summit. "Many have traveled many miles to see us", he said.

A day of two races saw a huge breakaway go clear, with green jersey Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) and polka dot jersey Julian Alaphilippe (QuickStep Floors) among those in the 32-strong group. "You don't know if he is really suffering or just pacing himself".

The Kenyan-born Briton was in the anti-doping crosshairs after his "adverse, analytical finding" for the asthma drug salbutamol on his way to victory in the Tour of Spain a year ago.

Sky have been largely unpopular in France since Briton Bradley Wiggins won the Tour in 2012. Then come the Pyrenees and a possibly decisive individual time trial in the penultimate stage before the traditional finish in Paris next weekend. While domestique riders often eat and undergo a massage within an hour or so of the finish, the race leader does not receive his post-race pampering until far later. "It's not an easy stage", said Froome. No chance in hell did I think I was going to win this.

For a long time, it looked as if Thomas, a two-time Olympic gold medallist in team pursuit, would relinquish his yellow jersey as Kruijswik opened up a commanding lead in the climb up Alpe d'Huez.

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