BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France – Once upon a time in Hollywood, the cry was “Run, Forrest, Run!” The message was not lost on Peter Sagan at the Tour de France.
The 22-year-old Slovakian won Tuesday’s ride toward the English Channel in dramatic fashion, and then went cinematic as he crossed the finish line – pumping his arms in the running style of fictional antihero Forrest Gump at the behest of his Liquigas teammates.
Competing in his first Tour, Sagan earned his second victory in the three full stages so far. He is picking up where he left off in May at the Tour of California, where he won a stunning five of eight stages.
On Tuesday, he mastered a tricky uphill finish and schooled many older riders on the last of five small climbs over the 122-mile ride from Orchies to the fishing port of Boulogne-sur-Mer.
With the pack split up because of crashes, Sagan bolted ahead with less than 300 meters left. He crossed the line several lengths – and one second – ahead of 46 other riders in his wake.
Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara was one of them, and he retained the leader’s yellow jersey for a fourth straight day after winning the opening-day prologue Saturday.
Tuesday’s ride also marked the first crash-related withdrawals from this 99th Tour, which ends July 22 on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.
Sky’s Kanstantsin Sivtsov of Belarus broke his left shin and became the first competitor to drop out this year. Rabobank’s Maarten Tjallingii broke his left hip and was taken to a hospital in the Netherlands for surgery – after finishing the stage.
Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, a sprint specialist for Garmin, went down in one crash and was delayed by another but was not badly injured, team spokeswoman Marya Pongrace said.
The race remains wide open. After flat early stages, Cancellara has 43 rivals within a minute of his overall time, and that’s likely to change by the time the pack heads to the Alps in the second week and the Pyrenees in the third.
Overall, Cancellara leads runner-up Bradley Wiggins, who is hoping to become Britain’s first Tour winner, and third-place Sylvain Chavanel – both seven seconds back. Defending champ Cadel Evans of Australia rose one spot to seventh, 17 seconds behind. Sagan was 15th, another six seconds slower.
Even leaders of rival teams were marveling at Sagan’s skill and potential after Tuesday’s stage victory.
“You’ve got to give Sagan credit for the way he’s riding at the minute,” Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said.
“It’s a bit like watching Messi playing football … isn’t it?” he said, referring to Barcelona soccer star Lionel Messi. “He’s winning with such apparent ease at the moment that it’s pretty phenomenal.”
Sagan enjoys putting on a show for fans. To that end, he churned his arms, as a runner might, in a nod to the title character in the movie “Forrest Gump.”
“It’s a thing I’d discussed with my teammates about what kind of gesture I’d do on the line,” Sagan said. “Everybody said, ‘Do a Forrest Gump’ because when he was told to run, he ran. And when I’m told to win, I win.”