TOUR OF FLANDERS
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