BORA-hansgrohe have been one of the more aggressive teams in the 2020 edition of the Tour de France, trying to push Sagan back into the green jersey fight with some harsh pace-driving throughout the hilly stages where Sagan normally excels.
This was the case again on Stage 14 of the Tour de France, coming into the intermediate sprint, which was positioned on an uphill drag, Sagan and his BORA-hansgrohe teammates increased the pace, driving off the front of the peloton.
Current green jersey holder Sam Bennett (Deceunink-QuickStep) tried to follow, but dropped away after a short chase, returning to the peloton while Sagan, Trentin and Schachmann collected points ahead of him at the intermediate point. That resulted in a five-point swing for Sagan, as he collected 15 to Bennett's 10.
That wasn't the end of BORA-hansgrohe's efforts, they then went to up the pace on the ascent of the Col du Beal, dropping Bennett. The Irishman had some teammates drop back and help try to catch back on, but Sagan's teammates proved stronger, with Deceuninck-QuickStep Dries Devenyns conceding defeat midway with a gesture at just over 40 kilometres to go.
Coming into the finale, BORA-hansgrohe continued to drive the pace, but couldn't contain the assault of Team Sunweb. Perhaps the somewhat dubious choice of Lennard Kämna to attack over the top of Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb) ultimately costing Sagan a rider who might have been able to chase down eventual stage winner Søren Kragh Andersen in the final kilometres.
Sagan had to try and cover the attacks himself and was left a little short on energy in the finish, when he hit the front of the sprint, he was overtaken by riders that he would normally beat in Luka Mezgec (Mitchelton-Scott) and Simone Consonni (Cofidis) to finish fourth behind solo winner Kragh Andersen.
Sagan thanked his teammates in a post on his website post-race.
"We wanted to make the stage tough today and drop the sprinters," said Sagan. "We worked hard all day for that, until the finish. I took fourth and got more points in the fight for the green jersey. The goal was to take more, but in the end, this is the best we could do.
"This is a very hard Tour de France and I’d like to thank my teammates for their fantastic job, not only today but every day since the start in Nice."
Bennett's advantage in the green jersey competition shrank from 66 points to 43 during the stage, with Stages 16, 18 and 19 possibly offering similar opportunities for Sagan to take points on Bennett in the green jersey race.
BORA-hansgrohe have tried similar tactics in the race, like in Stage 7, where they split the race early, only for Sagan to drop his chain in the sprint and lose the opportunity to take maximum points. Added in with Sagan's relegation for shouldering Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) in the Stage 11 sprint, and Sagan could well be on top in the standings.
The 2020 Tour de France continues with Stage 15, a 174.5-kilometre day in the mountains from Lyon to Grand Colombier. Watch the race on the SBS ŠKODA Tour Tracker from 8.15pm, with SBS HD and SBS On Demand coverage starting from 8.30pm AEST.