Sagan pipped again for Tour de France stage win

Alexander Kristoff powers home in St Etienne to earn first victory for Katusha

 Alexander Kristoff (left) of Norway celebrates after crossing the finish line to win the 12th stage of the  Tour de France  from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne. Photograph: Bas CzerwinskI/EPA

Alexander Kristoff (left) of Norway celebrates after crossing the finish line to win the 12th stage of the Tour de France from Bourg-en-Bresse to Saint-Etienne. Photograph: Bas CzerwinskI/EPA

Thu, Jul 17, 2014, 23:00

Peter Sagan’s quest for a stage win took another frustrating turn when he was unable to find the space in the final metres to come past the Norwegian Alexander Kristoff, who gave the Russian Katusha team their first stage win of this Tour. The Slovak, who leads the points standings by a country mile, has four second places to his name, plus three fourths and a fifth.

The finish sprint was fought out without the German pair who are usually so influential – Marcel Kittel was left behind in the Monts du Lyonnais, while André Greipel fell on a roundabout 3.5km from the end.

The upshot was a hectic finale in which no team took control, with Sagan’s Cannondale initially leading the charge but lacking the fire-power to give him a clear run to the line.

Kristoff did benefit from a lengthy pull from hirsute team-mate Luca Paolini, whose beard gives him more than a hint of the Ancient Mariner, or, given his sponsor, one of the Russian Tsars, but the Italian disappeared so early the sprint became a chaotic affair, after which Nancy stage winner Matteo Trentin was relegated to last for moving off his line.

Emerged

From the mass of bodies, it was Milan-San Remo winner Kristoff who emerged on the final curve, with the French national champion Arnaud Démare heading for second place until Sagan found room to come round Kristoff, passing Demare but just failing to best the Norwegian.

In the overall standings, Wednesday’s stage winner Tony Gallopin was unable to hold the pace over the final two climbs – after a lengthy series of ups and downs in the Beaujolais vineyards – and slipped from fifth to 20th place overall behind Vincenzo Nibali

That little adjustment was nothing, however, compared to the major reshuffle in the standings that can be expected on Friday over the first-category climb of the Col de Palaquit – an ascent the Tour has not tackled before – and the 18km to the finish at Chamrousse.

Meanwhile, after the loss of leader and defending champion Chris Froome due to a crash, Team Sky suffered a second body-blow in eight days when it was confirmed Britain’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has received a two-year ban for a violation of the UCI’s biological passport. Tiernan-Locke’s contract was terminated yesterday by Sky, their website confirmed.

Dominant style

The Devon cyclist was hired by Sky at the end of a stellar 2012 after winning the Tour of Britain in dominant style for the Endura team, on top of victories in the Tour du Haut Var, Tour of the Mediterranean and Tour d’Alsace. He has now been stripped of his victory in the Tour of Britain and his 19th place in the 2012 world road race championship.

Dave Brailsford said the team had changed its vetting procedures since the Tiernan-Locke case was revealed by the UCI in September 2013.

“What we have done is stop and look at our governance, we’ve got a compliance officer, we scrutinise all the available data now [and] all the info we have got and our monitoring is second to none, I would say.”

Team Sky added in a statement yesterday their senior management had reviewed their recruitment processes, which were called into question after the Tiernan-Locke case came to light. They have also appointed a compliance officer, Alison Johnson, to keep tabs on such issues.

No data to go on

The team’s stance is Tiernan-Locke’s anti-doping offence dates back to before he joined, and the difficulty for them was they had no data to go on when they hired him because his first test within the biological passport system took place in September 2012, and there were no further readings to establish a pattern until spring 2013. – Guardian Service

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