Stage 3 of the 2012 edition of the Tour de France was taken by 22-year-old rising star Peter Sagan—the youngest winner of a Tour de France stage since Lance Armstrong did it at the age of 21 in 1993. Sagan has now won two stages, and you can expect him to win a couple more this tour (if not this week). The jersey holders remain the same: Michael Morkov added to his King of the Mountains point total to keep the polka-dot jersey, and Fabian Cancellara retains the overall leader's yellow jersey. The tour has yet to enter the mountains, so these two should retain their leads until Saturday's Stage 7 when the demands of climbing will give the race an entirely new complexion. The green sprinter's jersey remains with Sagan.
Today's stage was hilly, with an intermediate and end-of-stage sprint. The reigning champion, Mark Cavendish, is trying to defend his 2011 green jersey without help from his team, Sky Procycling, whose primary concern is defending overall favorite Bradley Wiggins. Sky will expend as little energy as possible helping Cavendish take the sprinter's title. Today's intermediate sprint featured a leadout by team Orica GreenEDGE to give their man Matthew Goss (a challenger for the sprinter's jersey) an opening and an advantage to the line. Cavendish joined the effort (see the 20-second mark), and despite a risky and rather foolish move by Kenny Van Hummel, Cavendish was able to take the points. Also benefiting from the leadout was Peter Sagan, who is shaping up to be Cavendish's primary competition for the green jersey.
It's going to be a compelling storyline as the tour unfolds. Mark Cavendish won the second stage by taking the closing sprint, but Sagan was close enough to take the overall lead for green, and to learn a lesson from veterans like Andre Greipel and Cavendish:
"It is the first time that I have disputed a sprint in the Tour de France and I can see that it is different to everything I have experienced before," he admitted. "The battle for places is a lot harder, and it's very dangerous. I was very well positioned behind (Andre) Greipel, and then suddenly I found myself much further back."
Today he has found himself exactly where he wants to be. Expect a return shot tomorrow. Sagan's a quick learner, though he clearly needs to work on that "running man" celebration. Can't touch that.