SERAING, Belgium — Peter Sagan blushed, giggled and eventually brushed off comparisons to Lance Armstrong on Sunday after becoming the youngest rider to win a Tour de France stage since the American nearly a generation ago.
The 22-year-old Slovak gave a command performance in his debut in a full Tour stage by outsprinting Fabian Cancellara, who mounted a spirited, successful defense of his yellow jersey over a hilly ride in eastern Belgium in Stage 1.
The standings among the top contenders to win the three-week race didn't change much after the 123-mile loop from Liege to suburban Seraing featuring five low-grade climbs. Bradley Wiggins and defending champion Cadel Evans trailed close behind in a splintered pack.
Overall, Wiggins was second behind Cancellara, seven seconds back, and Evans was another 10 seconds slower in eighth.
Sagan became the youngest rider to capture a Tour stage since Armstrong got the first of his 22 career Tour stage victories at age 21, in Stage 8 in 1993. The youngest of all time is Italy's Fabio Battesini, who was 19 when he won one in the 1931 Tour.
Asked whether he has the potential to be the next Armstrong, Sagan said, "I would like to be, but I'm so young, it's impossible to know what the future will be."