Peter Sagan admits he thought chance of third world title was gone before claiming victory
Slovakian outsprints Alexander Kristoff in Bergen to bag historic victory
Peter Sagan admitted he thought his chance of winning a record-breaking third consecutive world road race title was over before he outsprinted home favourite Alexander Kristoff to claim victory in Bergen.
Slovakian Sagan, 27, became the first man ever to win the world road race in three consecutive years, ensuring he will ride in the rainbow bands again next season, after winning the reduced bunch sprint.
And the Bora-hansgrohe rider dedicated his victory to his pregnant wife and the late Michele Scarponi, the former Giro d’Italia winner who died in a training crash in April.
“It wasn’t easy,” he admitted post-race. “The last 5km, I said to myself it was already done – it’s gone.
“Then it changed in the front, then I tried to go in the breakaway, and then Gaviria tried to close the gap after which we managed to get it all back together for a sprint. It’s unbelievable.
“I’m sorry for Kristoff – he’s racing at home after all – but I’m very happy to win again. Three UCI World Championships – it’s special for sure.
“I’d like to thank my national team – Slovakia – and my friends in the group. I want to dedicate my victory to Michele Scarponi – it would have been his birthday tomorrow. It was a sad thing to have happened this year – my best wishes to all his family.
“I also dedicate this victory to my wife – we’re expecting a baby and this is a fantastic end to the season. I’m very happy.”
Sagan had actually been relatively quiet throughout the race, and having been ill in the week leading up to it (missing the team time trial as a result) was almost invisible in the build-up to the finale.
But after a late escape instigated by France’s Julian Alaphilippe, and joined by Team Sky duo Gianni Moscon (Italy) and Vasil Kiryienka (Belarus), was reined in inside the final two kilometres, Sagan outsprinted Kristoff to claim victory, with Australia’s Michael Matthews third.
Ben Swift was the highest-placed British finisher, claiming fifth having been the only Brit in the 29-strong front group that contested the final sprint.
Earlier, Ireland’s Conor Dunne had instigated the day’s break from the flag, joined by nine other riders including team-mate Sean McKenna, and they were allowed ten minutes on the bunch at one point.
As the laps of the finishing circuit ticked down, however, that was soon reduced and it was another more dangerous-looking breakaway which the peloton was forced to chase down in the final three-and-a-half laps.
That move contained the likes of Tim Wellens (Belgium), Alessandro de Marchi (Italy), Lars Boom (Netherlands) and Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), with plenty of firepower to spare.
They were reeled in on the penultimate lap, and a large group took the bell with plenty of the riders present trying to escape and deny a bunch sprint.
Alaphilippe’s attack on Salmon Hill led to a frantic response from behind, with Moscon bridging across and Kiryienka and Giro d’Italia stage winner Lukas Postlberger (Austria) chasing.
But the Frenchman was caught and Kiryienka’s late rally also came to nothing, as the race came down to a reduced bunch sprint.
Kristoff kicked first, attempting to charge to victory in his home country, but Sagan was on his wheel and came round to claim a record-breaking win.
UCI Road World Championships 2017: men’s elite road race
1) Peter Sagan – Slovakia – 6.28.11hrs
2) Alexander Kristoff – Norway – ST
3) Michael Matthews – Australia
4) Matteo Trentin – Italy
5) Ben Swift – Great Britain
6) Greg van Avermaet – Belgium
7) Michael Albasini – Switzerland
8) Fernando Gaviria – Colombia
9) Alexey Lutsenko – Kazakhstan
10) Julian Alaphilippe – France
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