Procycling - - Review Of The Year 2016 - BY SAM DANSIE

“Pick out your des­tiny, to­day,” Michel Wuyts, the race com­père in­structed Peter Sa­gan at the sign-on in Deinze’s Grote Markt be­fore a huge Sun­day morn­ing crowd. Given the run of six sec­ond places and no vic­to­ries since the sea­son started, Sa­gan avoided the pre­dictable ri­poste. “My time is com­ing,” he said in­stead. Equally pre­dictable, per­haps, but Sa­gan had the air of a man con­fi­dent in his method, and his wax­ing form.

Six hours later, af­ter lead­ing the pelo­ton over the Kem­mel­berg and caus­ing the de­ci­sive split, Sa­gan was in the fin­ish­ing straight in Wevel­gem. He read Ka­tusha rider Vi­ach­eslav Kuznetsov’s hap­less early sprint eas­ily and breezed past for his first win in the rain­bow jer­sey. A low-key cel­e­bra­tion, the flash of a smile and a con­grats from Fabian Can­cel­lara and Sa­gan seemed to be pro­cess­ing the re­sult al­ready. With the 25-year-old it’s al­ways the prep that mat­ters, not the place. And any­way, as he made clear in the press con­fer­ence after­wards, Flan­ders was most im­por­tant.

Tris­tan Hoff­man, Tinkoff’s DS, was a bet­ter re­flec­tion of the mood around the squad where ner­vous­ness was re­placed by re­lief. Hoff­man was more ex­pan­sive than his me­gas­tar charge, and ad­mit­ted his heart rate had climbed through the roof and that he’d be cel­e­brat­ing that night.

“I was on a very, very good day,” Sa­gan re­marked in the flash in­ter­view just be­fore the podium prepa­ra­tion. And as he spoke, with strag­glers still com­ing over the line, the thun­der­shower that had been threat­en­ing all af­ter­noon fi­nally burst, drench­ing ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one in chilly, vi­tal­is­ing spring rain.

That should have been the last word. But in the hours that fol­lowed, news that An­toine De­moitié, the young, keen Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider, was fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle for his life af­ter a mo­tor­bike had fallen on him fol­low­ing a crash, cast a pall over the race and the sport which lasted the rest of the year – and for his friends, his widow and his fam­ily, prob­a­bly the rest of their lives. A race ir­re­vo­ca­bly dis­fig­ured by tragedy.

Sa­gan’s ri­vals keep a close eye, but it’s not enough: he’ll win the sprint

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