BERN, Switzerland (AP) — Peter Sagan can win practically any way he chooses: Breakaways, sprints, fearless downhill attacks, and now a bike throw at the line.
The world champion from Slovakia showed off his all-around qualities by perfectly timing a sprint to win the 16th stage of the Tour de France in a photo finish on Monday.
Sagan edged Alexander Kristoff of Norway at the line after the race crossed into Switzerland.
Kristoff thought he won and pumped his fist in celebration, only to learn seconds later he hadn’t.
“I was lucky I threw my bike,” Sagan said. “I was certain I would finish second. ... Alexander made his jump very late on the line.”
Chris Froome held on to the yellow jersey after a relatively calm day for the overall leader before the race’s second and final rest day.
Froome got animated when he was asked about Sagan.
“Phenomenal rider,” Froome said of the long-haired rider with the Tinkoff team. “Most people in the peloton are scared of him, just his abilities. He can do everything. He chooses when he wants to go in the breakaway, how he wants to ride the finish.”
Froome profited from Sagan’s abilities by following him into a breakaway in Stage 11 to gain time on all of the other overall contenders.
“I was just surprised he didn’t attack on that last climb and ride away today but he still managed to win the stage,” Froome added.
The rolling 209-kilometer (130-mile) stage from Moirans-en-Montagne to the Swiss capital of Bern resembled the route of a single-day classic, with a section on cobblestones before a slight uphill finish.
Sagan is a specialist at stages like this, which exalt his unique blend of characteristics: He’s a punchy rider able to ride strong over short climbs, leave rivals behind on daredevil descents, and a top sprinter.
It was Sagan’s third stage win in this Tour and the seventh of his career.
Sondre Enger, another Norwegian, crossed third.
Sagan was greeted at the finish by a large contingent of fans waving Slovakia flags.
“For two years I did not win anything at the Tour, and now I’m winning again,” Sagan said. “That’s life.”
Sagan also won Stage 2, which followed a similar course, in a sprint. And he took the world title with a late breakaway in the U.S. last year.
Froome kept his 1-minute, 47-second lead over Dutch rider Bauke Mollema, with Britain’s Adam Yates in third, 2:45 back.
The race resumes on Wednesday with four punishing stages of climbing in the Alps before Sunday’s mostly ceremonial finish in Paris.
Aiming to secure his third title in four years, Froome rejected talk that he had already sealed victory.
“Other teams have said they’re going to attack this week in the Alps and I expect they will,” Froome said. “To say the Tour is won and I don’t have any rivals, that’s rubbish. A lot can happen in four days in the mountains. All you need is one bad day in the mountains and you can lose minutes.”
There was a minute of silence at the start of the stage to pay tribute to the 84 victims of the truck attack in Nice. It was the third of three days of national mourning in France following the Bastille Day attack.
A big black banner hanging from a bridge leading into Bern read, “Solidarity with Nice.”
The peloton crossed into Switzerland midway through the leg, riding through lush, green valleys with views of snow-capped mountains before crossing through the medieval center of Bern, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Etixx-Quickstep teammates Julian Alaphilippe and Tony Martin, a three-time time trial world champion, got in an early breakaway and established a lead of more than five minutes on the peloton before being reeled in with slightly more than 20 kilometers to go.
Former world champion Rui Costa then launched a solo attack but Sagan preferred to wait until the Portuguese rider was caught, and take his chances in the bunch sprint.