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 – 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 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 1 second – ahead of 46 other riders.
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 on Saturday.
Tuesday’s ride marked the first crash-related withdrawals from this 99th Tour, which ends July 22 on Paris’ Champs-Elysees.
The race remains wide open. After flat early stages, the Swiss rider has 43 rivals within a minute of his overall time.
Overall, Cancellara leads runner-up Bradley Wiggins, who is hoping to become Britain’s first Tour winner, and third-place Sylvain Chavanel – both 7 seconds back. Defending champ Cadel Evans of Australia rose one spot to seventh, 17 seconds behind. Sagan was 15th, another six seconds slower.
With Sagan’s Stage 1 victory Sunday, he became the youngest rider to win a Tour stage since Lance Armstrong in 1993 at 21. Even leaders of rival teams were marveling at his skill and potential after Tuesday’s victory.
“You’ve got to give Sagan credit for the way he’s riding at the minute. When you see something like that you just have to stand back and admire it, and smile and say well done,” Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said.
“It’s a bit like watching Messi playing football or something, isn’t it?” he said, referring to Barcelona’s 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.”
Sagan also showed a humbler side, saying he felt honored to ride alongside the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and two-time Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso on the Italian squad.
“With Basso, I feel like I’m on the level of someone who would shine his shoes,” Sagan said.