Sagan stamps his authority

November 17 th 2018 - 10:52 [GMT + 8]

Peter Sagan claimed the second edition of the Tour de France Škoda Shanghai Criterium after prevailing in a three-way sprint against 2018 Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and European champion Matteo Trentin, who took the second and third steps on the podium. Just for once, the former world champion left the green jersey to Marcel Kittel, who showed his strength in the intermediate sprints, while Pierre Latour, the best young rider in July, was the only one who managed to defend his jersey. Finally, his leader, Romain Bardet, won the combativity prize.

Romain Bardet in the same team as Geraint Thomas, with the Tour de France champion facing off against lieutenant Jonathan Castroviejo. Someone had to come up with this, and it was the Chinese fans that did so, choosing the composition of the two squads in the team time trial through the Weibo social network. Over a million fans went for this awkward mix. Even though it took the teams a lap to get used to riding together, both trains surged on the second lap to finish the 6 km time trial at an average speed of 44.4 km/h. As it turns out, the five-man team of Sagan, Kittel, Trentin, Castroviejo and Zhang Chunlong beat the quintet of Thomas, Bardet, Latour, Fuglsang and Wang Meiyin by just two seconds.

The Shanghai roller coaster is no place for distractions! This is the golden rule of races on dynamic circuits, particularly when points are up for grabs every four laps. A brave group of six riders, including Romain Bardet, Wang Meiyin, Nils Politt and Daniel Oss, rolled the dice from the start. However, the peloton never conceded more than 20″ and reeled them in on the fifth lap, leaving a five-man group to launch a counter-attack. Marcel Kittel ruled the roost and nabbed the points on offer at the second intermediate sprint, capitalising on the absence of green jersey Peter Sagan, usually voracious in these sprints. The German sprinter, who went home empty-handed from the Grande Boucle, was eager to make amends in China by taking the points classification, despite Luka Mezgec sticking to his wheel at the third intermediate sprint.

Bardet, almost as lively as on the Alpine slopes, surged again from the leading group with a counter-attack that caught the eye of the jury of the combativity prize. It all came back together on lap 16 of 20. A magic square broke away from the peloton with ten kilometres to go, featuring Geraint Thomas, Peter Sagan, Pierre Latour and Matteo Trentin. The yellow jersey kicked it up a notch with just over two laps to go, dropping the white jersey, who found himself in an awkward position between the front of the race and the fast-chasing peloton. A three-way sprint started to take shape on the final lap. The European champion had an ace up his sleeve, but Peter Sagan pre-empted him to accelerate with over 300 metres to go and let his sheer power do the talking. They should not have tickled the dragon's tail!

He may not be as lean as he once was, but the Luxembourger's smile and bright eyes have not changed a bit since he won the 2010 Tour de France. Andy Schleck hung up his bicycle a while ago, but he still visits the peloton regularly as an ambassador for Škoda, which asked him to be its public face at the event in China: "I know the country well, I come here quite often and you can see how fast cycling is growing here. I went for a ride with over 2,000 amateurs this morning. This place has loads of potential". Watching the Criterium from the sidelines, Schleck also took the opportunity to take in the scent of competition without the usual pressure: "These boys were my colleagues not so long ago, and many of them are still good friends. It's always a pleasure to be here, I feel at home."

Follow us

Receive exclusive news about Shanghai Criterium