Peter Sagan triumphs at Gent-Wevelgem to win first race as world champion

Slovakian finally secures victory in rainbow jersey to seal second victory in cobbled race

World champion Peter Sagan finally won his first race in the rainbow jersey, after winning Gent-Wevelgem from a four-man breakaway.

The Slovakian, who was second again at E3-Harelbeke just days earlier, finally stood on the top step of the podium for the first time since becoming world champion in Richmond.

Sagan beat Sep Vanmarkce (LottoNL-Jumbo), Viacheslav Kuznetsov (Team Katusha) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) after instigating their escape on the tougher second ascent of the Kemmelberg.

Peter Sagan celebrates his first victory as world champion (pic: Sirotti)

Organisers had hoped the re-introduction of the climb would make for a more open race, and so it proved with Sagan, Vanmarcke and Cancellara forging clear of a vastly-reduced peloton and catching lone leader Kuznetsov to contest the sprint for victory.

However, the race was overshadowed by the fatal injuries suffered by Wanty-Groupe Gobert rider Antoine Demoitie, who was one of several to crash earlier in the race and later died in hospital as a result of injuries suffered when he was hit by a motorbike.

– Peter Sagan leads tributes to Antoine Demoitie –

Five riders formed the day’s breakaway, including Lieuwe Westra (Astana), while the peloton was split into several groups behind due to strong winds and crashes.

Sagan was in the front chasing group, alongside Cancellara, Tom Boonen (Etixx-QuickStep), Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) among others.

They caught the breakaway with 115km remaining, and a second chasing group also latched back on to form a front group of 50 riders with 91km still to race – including two ascents of the Kemmelberg.

Attacks continued to fly off the front, with Matteo Trentin (Etixx-QuickStep) and Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) in a dangerous five-man move that went clear on the Monteberg, but was reeled back in.

Kuznetsov struck out next, earning a solo lead, but it was Sagan’s move on the Kemmelberg which proved most decisive.

With Cancellara on his wheel, and Vanmarcke in hot pursuit, the three caught Kuznetsov at the end of the descent and worked well to keep their pursuers at bay.

Etixx-QuickStep led the chase, with plenty of their riders still in the front group, but the gap was substantial enough to the front men for the cat-and-mouse to start with 2km still to race.

Kuznetsov went first, but Sagan found his wheel and used the Russian as his lead-out – outsprinting Vanmarcke to bag his much-deserved first win as world champion.

Sagan is flanked on the podium by Sep Vanmarcke and Viacheslav Kuznetsov (pic: Sirotti)

Kuznetsov pipped Cancellara to the final podium place, but thoughts post-race quickly turned to Demoitie when it was revealed he had been rushed to hospital in serious condition.

After news of his death broke the following morning, Sagan led the tributes, writing: “My initial joy [at winning] was short-lived when I heard about the incident involving young Belgian rider Antoine Demoitie.

“The news of his death saddened me and I would like to express my deepest condolences to his wife, family, friends and team.”

Gent-Wevelgem 2016: result

1) Peter Sagan (SVK) – Tinkoff – 5.55.12hrs
2) Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) – LottoNL-Jumbo – ST
3) Viacheslav Kuznetsov (RUS) – Katusha
4) Fabian Cancellara (SUI) – Trek Factory Racing
5) Arnaud Demare (FRA) – FDJ +11”
6) Fernando Gaviria (COL) – Etixx-QuickStep – ST
7) Jurgen Roelandts (BEL) – Lotto-Soudal
8) Jacopo Guarnieri (ITA) – Katusha
9) Greg van Avermaet (BEL) – BMC Racing
10) Michael Morkov (DEN) – Katusha

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