For Anthony Tan, Peter Sagan’s incredible, come-back-from-nowhere victory on the opening stage the Amgen Tour of California brought back memories of a vintage Robbie McEwen, circa July 2007.
Did Peter Sagan’s come-back-from-nowhere win at the Tour of California remind you a little of the opening road stage of the Tour de France five years ago?
It was July 8, 2007. As part of a three-day British sojourn, the second day entailed a 203-kilometre stage from London Greenwich to Canterbury in the east. As per usual in the opening week of the Tour it was a jittery peloton, who, with 20 kilometres remaining and just having crested the third and final climb of the day, the 1.1km long Cote de Farthing Common, were nervous as a clutter of cats on a hot tin roof.
A high-speed crash found pre-stage favourite Robbie McEwen in the thick of the melee, landing heavily on his knee and wrist. And with the bunch inexorably approaching top speed he was not expected to return to the fold.
Wrong. Armed with the aid of his loyal Predictor-Lotto teammates McEwen, adrenalin pumping through his veins, scrounged back onto the wagging tail as if their lives depended on it before Fred Rodriguez and Leif Hoste, at their scrambling best, foraged their way through to the front for him.
Still, McEwen had to start his sprint early, coming from around tenth wheel. He went past Francisco Ventoso. Then Burghardt – Freire – Forster – Feillu – Chavanel – Boonen – Hushovd… before a last launch to the line, a shake of the head almost making the believable, unbelievable for the winner himself.
It brought up Robbie’s tally of Tour wins to an even dozen, adding to his twelve Giro d’Italia stages and thereby immortalising the pocket rocket into the pantheon of sprinting greats.
Sadly, though, try as he did, it would also turn out to be his last Grand Tour victory.
I wonder how he felt today, riding the first stage in his swansong race, before trailing off on a seemingly innocuous Cat. 3 climb towards the finish that turned out to be more difficult than anticipated and trimmed the lead group to 65 riders.
Sagan was in there but a puncture some 7km from the finish further whetted the appetites of men like Tom Boonen, Heinrich Haussler, Michael Matthews and Leigh Howard, whose chances suddenly increased several-fold. Or so they thought…
Matthews would encounter his own problems 3.5km later on when he took a tumble, but as ‘Bling’ was cursing what might’ve been, he may have seen Sagan move back through the bunch and promptly in prime position.
Daniel Oss, no sprinting slouch himself, would be the Slovakian champ’s final lead-out guy, and it was all Sagan needed to deliver yet another notch to his ever-growing palmares.
“It is going to be very hard to hold onto the yellow jersey. I’m okay on the smaller climbs but it’s only going to get harder and harder as the week goes on,” Sagan said.
I won’t call him a liar yet but right now, it seems, there is little this two-wheeled wunkerkind cannot do.