Slovakia’s Peter Sagan charged ahead over the final climbs and hung on at the finish to win Sunday’s men’s road race at the World Road Cycling Championships in Richmond, USA.
The 25-year-old completed the 261.4km (162.4 mile) course in 6hrs 14mins 37secs to defeat Australian Michael Matthews by three seconds with Lithuania’s Ramunas Navardauskas third, also in 6:14:37.
“I think it’s the biggest victory,” Sagan said. “I’m very happy. It’s unbelievable for me. I’m very happy for this.”
Sagan, who won this year’s Tour of California and the points competition at the Tour de France, was considered a favourite because his skill on short, steep climbs with sprint speed fit perfectly with the Richmond city street course.
— UCI (@UCI_cycling) September 27, 2015
On a cool day when predicted rain barely fell, Sagan was barely mentioned among those at the front until it mattered most.
“I did just one attack,” Sagan said. “But I think it was the right attack.”
Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski, the 2014 winner – who announced earlier in the day he has signed for Team Sky for next season – was among seven riders who surged ahead with 32km remaining, joined by Belgian Tom Boonen, Italy’s Elia Viviani, Dutchman Bauke Mollema, Britain’s Ian Stannard, Spain’s Daniel Moreno and Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador in the breakaway.
Germany, Australia and US riders tried to pull the peloton forward, but team-mates of the leaders slowed the pack and rivals struggled to respond.
With 16km remaining, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and Portugal’s Nelson Oliveira led surges but both were swallowed by the peloton.
Sagan: “Everybody had to be tired after 240km. I just ate all the gels that I had and I was waiting for the last cobblestone climb.”
— Sky Sports Cycling (@SkyCycling) September 27, 2015
American Tyler Farrar and Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus tried again with 10km remaining but an Italian-led peloton chased them down just before the narrow, winding Libby Hill cobblestone climb, where a French attack failed.
Sagan and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet charged up the final cobblestone climb at 23rd Street and from there Sagan surged to the front and kept the lead to the finish line.
“It was very strange,” he said. “I was waiting, waiting. I was a little bit also in the crazy. Everybody had to be tired. I gave all the energy I had. I was hoping for the last cobblestone line and from there it was just gas it to the finish.”
Sagan tossed his helmet into the crowd in the euphoric moments after his win. Matthews charged but came up just short in trying to become the first Aussie to win the road race since Cadel Evans in 2009.
Aussie team-mate Simon Gerrans, second last year, finished sixth.
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