In his hunt for a stage win, Sagan went all out by joining the break, but the final climb proved too much and he rolled over the line 29 seconds down in fifth. He sat on Van Avermaet’s wheel all the way up the final 570-metre climb to the finish and looked primed to dart out from behind the Belgian to win the stage.

Slovakian Sagan, who has not won a stage for two years, said: “I’m not sad”.

But by the end, after the pack had covered three hills, Greipel was dropped – he finished more than 12 minutes back – which meant he got no points in the final sprint.

“It was really close”, he said. It was my mistake. “I’m in a great position”, he said.

Peraud told France-2 TV that he would have an X-ray and decide later whether he would start on Saturday.

Steve Cummings claimed a stunning smash and grab win on stage 14 of the Tour de France to Mende on Saturday.

Argentina’s Eduardo Sepulveda learned the hard way that such lapses in judgment can have a high cost.

Van Avermaet, by contrast, attacked early and held on grimly.

Team Sky have come under intense scrutiny for claims that some of their riders have been using performance enhancing drugs and, just this week, those allegations grew larger with Dave Brailsford saying that the team have had their data hacked.

Here are the overall standings and after 13 stages, Chris Froome is still comfortably out in front, with Te-jay Van Garderen staying second.

He got back on his bike after the tumble despite sustaining deep bruises on his left arm and leg.

The crash which saw Jean Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) tumble to the Tarmac, tear his Lycra shorts and expose more than was appropriate before the watershed was a reminder to Froome of the daily perils in the bunch.

Team manager Emmanuel Hubert regretted that Sepulveda, who had been an impressive 19th overall as the day’s stage began, showed “negligence”.

But Froome added: “I’m not scared about this”. A team spokesman said he didn’t know Nibali’s salary.

[STORY: Chris Froome open to physiological tests to counter doping claims]. He has lamented that he’s “not even the younger brother of the Nibali from previous year”.

Live coverage will once again begin at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN with racing getting started at 6:35 a.m. Live online streaming is available through the NBC Sports Live Extra app and NBC’s Tour de France web package, though the former can only be used on mobile devices and the latter requires purchase.

Asked about his leadership in the King of the Mountains classification, he said that it wasn’t a big target, but could be a nice bonus.

“For now, I don’t realise that I’ve won a stage at the Tour de France, the Tour de France is a dream”.