Gaviria lays marker with tight win
Fernando Gaviria won his second stage victory of this Tour de France in a thrilling sprint finish in Sarzeau on Tuesday, and in doing so made plain the fight Peter Sagan faces to win a record-equalling sixth green jersey.
Riding in his first Tour, Gaviria again made it appear as though he has been performing on cycling's grandest stage all his life, and at the end of 195 mostly tranquil kilometres through the heart of Brittany, the 23-year-old Colombian faced down the brilliantly talented Sagan and hugely experienced powerhouse Andre Greipel, and beat both of them by a matter of inches in a photo finish.
Chris Froome and the rest of the main general classification contenders finished safely in the pack, although a mass crash 5km from home caused several riders to lose time including Katusha's Russian leader, Ilnur Zakarin.
One of Froome's key rivals Rigoberto Uran was also caught up in the incident but his EF team worked hard to ensure he rejoined the peloton.
Much of this stage passed without incident, a natural lull in a far bigger contest, like the tranquil spell of a Test match before tea.
It took a classic pattern: the early breakaway of four riders enjoying their moment in the limelight, the peloton gently reeling them in, before the foremost sprint team, Gaviria's Quick-Step Floors, took control of the finish.
Three days after winning on debut, Gaviria followed the self-styled 'wolf pack' of Quick-Step riders to the front of the peloton as the finish-town of Sarzeau came into view, before springing out and attacking the straight.
Sagan and Greipel were the only riders able to keep pace, with Mark Cavendish failing to find the position or power to match them despite the assistance of his Dimension Data team.
Greipel seemed to nudge ahead in the final 50m but Gaviria came back and pinched victory on the line.
The result means Sagan retains the green jersey with 143 points, but Gaviria now has 139 and already it seems like these two will enjoy a rivalry throughout this race and Tours to come.
For those overall riders, the serious stuff starts now: Wednesday's stage five is an up-and-down day consisting of five climbs like a tough classics race, before Thursday's stage six takes in two loops of the gruelling Mur-de-Bretagne, which will hurt plenty in the pack.