TOUR OF FLAN­DERS

Procycling - - Review Of The Year 2016 - BY ED­WARD PICK­ER­ING

Sa­gan’s irst Mon­u­ment vic­tory had none of the ex­tro­vert chest- thump­ing cathar­sis of his World Cham­pi­onships win in Rich­mond

If there’s one thing we’re learn­ing about Peter Sa­gan as his ca­reer reaches its zenith, it’s that he is mak­ing a habit of con­found­ing ex­pec­ta­tions. His first win in a Mon­u­ment, in un­sea­son­ally warm Flan­drian sun­shine, had none of the ex­tro­vert chest-thump­ing cathar­sis of his Worlds win in Rich­mond the pre­vi­ous Septem­ber. Af­ter hold­ing off an in­fer­nal pur­suit by Fabian Can­cel­lara over the fi­nal 13km, Sa­gan weaved up the straight, aborted his vic­tory salute be­fore the line and crossed it shak­ing his head, only pulling up his front wheel in a desul­tory wheelie some dis­tance af­ter the line, by which time the pho­tog­ra­phers’ lenses were al­ready be­ing trained on Can­cel­lara. We were ex­pect­ing a pri­mal roar of re­lief from Sa­gan; in­stead we got lit­tle more than a whim­per. We might have ex­pected the cru­cial break to come on a climb, as it did in E3 or in Rich­mond. In­stead, Sa­gan slipped away with Micha¯ Kwiatkowski and Sep Van­mar­cke on an in­nocu­ous, flat sec­tion of road af­ter the Taaien­berg. Im­pro­vised or not, the move verged on ge­nius – Can­cel­lara dis­missed its se­ri­ous­ness by not mark­ing it and putting his team-mate Stijn Devolder to work to try to close the gap. Devolder would be nowhere near as strong as Kwiatkowski, Van­mar­cke or Sa­gan in a one-against-one; when the three com­bined forces, it was no won­der the gap quickly went out to 30 sec­onds and stub­bornly stayed there, giv­ing Sa­gan a cru­cial head start on the fi­nal climb of the Oude Kware­mont. At the top, Sa­gan and Van­mar­cke led Can­cel­lara by 11 sec­onds. At the top of the Pater­berg, Sa­gan was on his own and led the Swiss by 15. Same gap at the bot­tom of the de­scent. Same gap with 6km to go, and Can­cel­lara gave in.

Sa­gan seemed sub­dued at the fin­ish, as if he couldn’t see what the fuss was about. Per­haps we shouldn’t have been sur­prised. Af­ter all, Sa­gan wasn’t.

Sa­gan plays it cool as he in­ally takes his irst vic­tory in a Mon­u­ment

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