Sagan repeats World Championships Elite Men’s Road Title in Doha, Qatar
For the second year running, Peter Sagan has been crowned Elite Mens’ Road World Champion after he blazed to victory in a small group sprint ahead of Britain’s Mark Cavendish and Belgium’s Tom Boonen.
In what the French call a sprint royale with the three former Elite Men’s World Champions - Boonen, Sagan and Cavendish - taking a leading role, the Slovakian’s blistering late acceleration between Italy’s Giacomo Nizzolo and the barriers on the right hand side of the road powered Sagan across the line more than a bike length clear of the Briton. Australia’s Michael Matthews, silver behind Sagan last year in Richmond’s World Championships, placed fourth.
“I can’t believe it, I’m still in shock,”
Sagan said as he received hugs and applause from his team-mates.
Events took a major turn in the final in the 2016 Road World Championships changed radically after two hours riding when Great Britain and Belgium managed to create a major echelon on an exposed section of desert road. Although top names like Sagan, Cavendish, Boonen and his Belgian team-mate Greg Van Avermaet were present in the front group alongside Italy’s Elia Viviani, Australia’s Michael Matthews and Norway’s Alexander Kristoff, a host of other contenders were missing. Perhaps most notably given their strong sprinters’ line-up in Doha, both France and Germany failed to have any representation, and Colombia’s fastman Fernando Gaviria, who crashed, also failed to make the split.
After a long chase on the roads back into Doha, the gap rose from a minute to over two for the leading move, which first swept up an early break of seven riders to form a break of 26 before settling into a steady pace. Belgium, with six riders, and Italy did the bulk of the work on the front of the break, and when the gap between the lead 26 and the chasers rose to over three minutes with two laps to go, it was clear that one of the front group would be the new World Champion.
After Belgian Peter Stuyven led the break through the finishing line for the last lap, the Netherlands Niki Terpstra briefly attempted to make a move. But Van Avermaet shut that move down and the Italians stepped up the pace ahead. Terpstra’s team-mate Tom Leezer made his own charge off the front with two kilometres to go, but Belgium’s relentless chasing behind made it as impossible for Leezer to stay clear as it had been for Terpstra.
In the final, slightly rising sprint for the line, Sagan darted right and Cavendish, having followed Sagan for kilometre after kilometre, made his own way on the left. When the two leading sprinters’ lines merged again with metres of the line, though, Sagan was ahead, and his ferocious acceleration past Nizzolo saw him storm across the finish a bike-length ahead of the Briton. Boonen, meanwhile, took bronze, his first World Championships medal since winning the same race back in 2005.
In the process, Sagan has become just the sixth rider in the history of the World Championships to make a successful defense of his title. Sagan is also the first rider to repeat a World Championships win since Paolo Bettini in 2006-2007 and one of just twelve riders with more than one gold medal in the Road World Championships Elite Men’s title.
“I'm very happy because there was a crosswind and I was the last one to make the first group,” Sagan added.
“In the end, it came down to a bunch sprint. There was a bit of a headwind so I felt I needed to come from the back. I felt I was lucky because [Giacomo] Nizzolo didn’t close me out. If he closed me out for sure we would have crashed because I wasn’t going to brake. We should have crashed but I’m happy. It’s unbelievable.”
"I am just disappointed I messed up tactically,” Cavendish said. “I came in with so much speed and power. I wanted to be on Peter's wheel. I knew the Norwegians would hit out early into the headwind and I knew Sagan would just get the right wheel and I could float off him.”
"The hard thing was losing [GB team-mate] Luke Rowe to a puncture which would have given us three in the front group and he would have been valuable at the end” After his silver in the Omnium in the Olympic Games, Cavendish reflected, “I am just going to have to settle for another second this year."
The World Championships nations ranking was won by Germany overall with an impressive total of 970 points nearly 300 points clear of the USA, their closest pursuers. The Netherlands moved onto the final podium on the last day’s racing with 642 points, ahead of Italy and Denmark.
Next year’s UCI Road World Championships will be held in Bergen, Norway from September 17th to September 24th. See you there!