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After a strong attack on the steep 23rd Street, Sagan soloed to the win at the World Championships, holding off Matthews and Navardauskas who completed the podium

Photo: Tinkoff-Saxo / BettiniPhoto

MICHAEL MATTHEWS

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PETER SAGAN

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RAMUNAS NAVARDAUSKAS

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WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS

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27.09.2015 @ 22:06 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Slovakia) finally took the big win that has always eluded him when he made a strong solo attack on the steep 23rd Street to clinch his first Worlds title in solo fashion. The Slovakian managed to narrowly hold off a reduced bunch that was led home by Michael Matthews (Australia) and Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania).

 

When he emerged on the pro scene in 2010, Peter Sagan was predicted to go on to dominate the classics and it seemed that it would just be a question of time before he would take his first Worlds title. However, after his great start to his career, his star seemed to fade as other riders emerged in the biggest one-day races.

 

Much was said about his ability to handle the very long races as he always seemed to come up short in the monuments and in recent year he has turned into the eternal runner-up, finishing second on multiple occasions in grand tour stages. However, the criticism can now be put to rest after he came out on top in a very exciting Worlds road race in Richmond.

 

After he crashed out of the Vuelta, Sagan had slipped slightly down the list of favourites as his preparation had been far from optimal. However, his altitude training in the USA had allowed him to build the perfect condition and after having played the waiting game all day, he benefited maximally from his great form by launching a strong solo attack the final time up the steep, cobbled 23rd Street.

 

The race really started when the riders approached the three climbs on the circuit for the third last time. A trio was brought back just as they hit the first ascent of Libby Hill.

 

The Brits hit the front on the climb, with Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Ben Swift all taking turns. As they hit 23rd Street, Stannard attacked strongly and was joined by Bauke Mollema.

 

Tom Boonen, Daniel Moreno, Andrey Amador and Michal Kwiatkowski joined the group before they hit Governor Street where Mollema attacked. Moreno brought him back though before Elia Viviani joined them to make it a 7-rider break.

 

At the passage of the line, the gap was 18 seconds and it was again the Germans chasing hard with Andre Greipel and Paul Voss. However, the escapees worked well together and the gap went out to 30 seconds.

 

Greipel, Paul Martens, Marcel Sieberg (Germany), Ben King (USA) and Simon Clarke (Australia) started to chase and they had brought the gap down to 20 seconds with 22km to go. Here Greipel had ended his work.

 

The fight for position really intensified as they again approached Libby Hill where the attacking started again. Matteo Trentin, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Philippe Gilbert, Nelson Oliveira, Tony Gallopin, Viacheslav Kuznetsov, John Degenkolb, Greg Van Avermaet, Tiesj Benoot joined the front group as they hit 23rd Street and later Marco Haller, Tom Dumoulin and Niki Terpstra also made it across.

 

Australia had missed the move so they started to chase with Mathew Hayman and as there was no cooperation, the group was caught as they started the final lap. Dumoulin and Kuznetsov tried again and were joined by Oliveira but that trio had no success either.

 

Oliveira went again and was joined by Amador, Rein Taaramae, Pavel Brutt and Van Avermaet but as the latter refused to work, the move was doomed to failure. Italy led the chase and Van Avermaet and Amador quickly sat up before the break was caught with 12km to go.

 

Fabio Felline set the pace for Italy but as the group slowed down a bit, Kanstantsin Siutsou took off. He was joined by Tyler Farrar and the pair managed to build a 10-second advantage as they entered the final 10km.

 

The Italians started to chase with Daniele Bennati and he managed to bring the duo back with 5km to go. Farrar made one final attack but Felline shut it down.

 

Sep Vanmarcke and Felline were lined out on the front as they approached Libby Hill but it was a Frenchman who led the group onto the climb. Here Zdenek Stybar launched a strong attack and together with John Degenkolb, he got a small gap. Van Avermaet and Boasson Hagen joined the move but they were brought back as they went down the descent.

 

Niki Terpstra tried to make a solo move but Degenkolb was quick to shut it down. The Dutchman kept riding on the front until they hit 23rd Street where Van Avermaet accelerated hard. However, he was passed by a strong Sagan who reached the top with a small advantage over the Belgian and Boasson Hagen.

 

Van Avermaet didn’t get any help from his Norwegian companion and so Sagan increased his advantage on the descent. He hit the Governor Street climb with 1km to go with a decent gap while Spain chased hard in the peloton with Luis Leon Sanchez.

 

Rigoberto Uran attacked strongly on the climb, catching the chasers in the process, but failed to get a gap. Meanwhile, Sagan still ride strongly and when he hit the finishing straight with 600m to go, it was clear that he was not going to get caught. He had time to sit up to celebrate his first big win before Michael Matthews beat Ramunas Navardauskas and Alexander Kristoff in the sprint for second.

 

Sagan will get his first chances to wear the rainbow jersey next week where several Italian one-day races are on the menu, culminating with Sunday’s Il Lombardia which is the final WorldTour race of the season.

 

 

A tough circuit

The 2015 World Championships was held on a 261.4km course in Richmond. After a short flat section in the beginning, the riders hit the main 16.2km circuit that they would complete 15 times after having done almost a full lap in the beginning. Most of the circuit was flat on big, wide roads but inside the final four kilometres, the riders tackled three climbs in quick succession. First it was the cobbled Libby Hill and 23rd Street and then the paved Governor Street which led to the 680m false-flat finishing straight.

 

The forecasted rain was absent when the riders gathered for the start of the race and it was the Spaniards that led the peloton through the neutral zone. Jaco Venter (South Africa) was absent due to visa problems. As soon as the flag was dropped to signal the official start, Conor Dunne (Ireland) took off and he was quickly joined by Ivan Stevic (Serbia), Sung Baek Park (South Korea), Jesse Sergent (New Zealand) and Andriy Khripta (Ukraine) to form a five-rider break.

 

An 8-rider break

The peloton allowed Ben King (USA), Sergei Tvetcov (Romania) and Carlos Alzate (Colombia) to take off in pursuit before they completely slowed down. The chasers had to work had to join the front quintet and when they made the junction just before the first passage of the climbs, the bunch had already been distanced by almost five minutes.

 

The Dutchmen had clear plans of making the race hard so they lined out their troops on the front as soon as they hit Libby Hill for the first time. Jos van Emden strung things out and started to slowly bring the break back. At the first passage of the line, the gap was just below five minutes,

 

Van Emden in control

Van Emden continued to ride hard which created a split in the group. However, it came back together before they hit the climbs again. Here King was briefly dropping his companions but at the passage of the line, the group was back together. Marcel Sieberg (Germany) led the peloton onto the climbs but it was van Emden who continued on the front, bringing the gap down to 4.13 at the line.

 

Van Emden set the pace for another lap and had brought the gap down to 3.16 as he crossed the line again. Here Robert Gesink had to stop to change his bike while a crash ended the race for Costa Rican Cesar Rohas Villegas.

 

Puncture for Boonen

Stevic suffered an unfortunate puncture but made it back to the break as they entered the final 200km. Meanwhile, Paul Martens and Jarlinson Pantano hit the deck but they were quickly back on their bikes.

 

Just as the peloton was fighting for position for the next passage of the climbs, Tom Boonen (Belgium) suffered a puncture. However, he sprinted up 23rd Street to regain contact while van Emden continued to set the pace. At the passage of the line, the gap was 3.26.

 

Bodnar hits the front.

As the peloton hit Libby Hill with 180km to go, Maciej Bodnar upped the pace for the Poles but he quickly slowed down again. This caused a small standstill in the peloton before van Emden got back to work. With 11 laps to go, the gap had gone out to 3.41.

 

Van Emden finally seemed to fade when they hit Libby Hill for the sixth time and so it was time for his teammate Dylan van Baarle to take over. However, he quickly stopped and after a slowdown, it was van Emden who was back on the front as they crossed the line, 3.26 behind the escapees.

 

The Dutchmen accelerate

Van Emden set the pace for another lap until he finally swung off as they hit Libby Hill again. Here van Baarle and Gesink upped the pace significantly and briefly drew 10 riders clear. However, the group was back together as they crossed the line with 9 laps to go, just 1.18 behind the leaders.

 

The gap came down to 50 seconds but then the Dutchmen again stepped off the gas as van Emden again took over the pace-setting. However, he again disappeared as the fight for position intensified for the climbs.

 

The break splits up

Tony Martin (Germany) won the battle and led the group onto Libby Hill. Meanwhile, the break split up as King went full gas, dropping Tvetcov and Park. The former managed to rejoin the group and instead it was Khrupta who fell off the pace on 23rd Street.

 

After the cobbled climbs, the peloton slowed down and this allowed Juan Carlos Rojas (Costa Rica) to make an unsuccessful attempt to bridge the gap which had gone out to 1.55 at the passage of the line. Meanwhile, van Emden again took over the pace-setting.

 

Stevic is dropped

Van Emden rode fast until the fight for position again intensified and it was Nikolas Maes (Belgium) who led the bunch onto Libby Hill. Here Park and Khrupta were brought back while Stevic was dropped from the break.

 

Maes maintained his fast pace until they hit Governor Street where they again came to a standstill. As they crossed the line, they were 2.16 behind while Rojas was still at 1.21. Stevic was just 30 seconds ahead of the peloton and decided to abandon before he had been brought back.

 

Majka ups the pace

Van Emden again started to chase and set the pace until the fight for position again intensified. While they brought Rojas back, the Poles prepared themselves to accelerate and it was Rafal Majka who strung things out on Libby Hill before Tom Boonen set the pace up 23rd Street.

 

King and Dunne briefly dropped their companions but the group was back together as they hit Governor Street. Tony Martin (Germany) had a puncture but managed to rejoin the group which again slowed down.

 

A big, dangerous group

While Alzate was dropped on Governor Street, the attacking started in the peloton and as they hit the finishing straight, a group with Gesink, Vanmarcke, Keukeleire, Mollema, Majka, Goncalves, Mas, Quintero, Juul, Chernsetkii, Taaramae, Clarke, Boom, Rodriguez, Paterski, Breschel, Nibali, Zakarin, Bookwalter, Plaza, Vanmarcke, Costa, Gilbert had picked up Alzate. Just moments after the passage of the finish line, they brought the front quartet back. Meanwhile, Jempy Drucker and Daniel Oss hit the deck.

 

Keukeleire, Plaza, Gesink and Vanmarcke all did a lot of work and suddenly the gap had gone out to 20 seconds. However, the Germans had missed the move and due to strong work from Christian Knees, they managed to bring the break back.

 

Gesink attacks

Mas and Goncalves briefly tried to get clear but failed as Gesink continued to ride hard on the front. When he finally stopped, Mas tried again but it was impossible to get clear. Alex Dowsett, Goncalves and a Canadian rider didn’t have much luck either as the Belgians took full control with Iljo Keisse.

 

It was Nikolas Maes who accelerated hard as they went up Libby Hill and he made the peloton slit on the two cobbled climbs. As they hit Governor Street, Gesink attacked again and he got an advantage of a few seconds. However, Maes continued to ride hard and so it was all back together with 5 laps to go.

 

Four riders get clear

As the peloton slowed down, Guillaume Boivin (Canada) and Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia) took off and they were quickly joined by Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) and Taylor Phinney (USA). The quintet got a 30-second advantage before the Germans started to chase with Christian Knees. However, the pace was not very fast and so Gatis Smukulis (Latvia) tried to bridge the gap.

 

The gap went out to a minute before the peloton accelerated as they approached Libby Hill. Here Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium) attacked strongly, sprinting past Smukulis and getting an immediate gap.

 

A strong chase quartet

Simon Geschke (Germany), Daniele Bennati (Italy) and Ian Stannard (Great Britain) joined Vanmarcke after 23rd Street where Pantano was dropped from the break. However, Luke Durbridge (Australia) made the peloton split on the climb and as they crossed the line, the chasers and Pantano were brought back.

 

At this point, the gap was 30 seconds but as the peloton slowed down, it went out to 1.15. The slower pace allowed Gediminas Bagdonas (Lithuania) to try to bridge the gap in a solo move.

 

Kristoff goes down

Germany again took control with Knees until the Dutchmen again upped the pace with van Baarle. Just as this happened a big crash split the field. Erviti, Nordhaug, Plaza, Majka and Kristoff were among the many riders involved.

 

The Danes took over the pace-setting but it was Tiesj Benoot (Belgium) and Nelson Oliveira (Portugal) who rode on the front on Libby Hill. The Portuguese tried a solo move in between the two climbs but was brought back when Vanmarcke again accelerated. Bagdonas was brought back

 

Rodriguez attacks

Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) made a very strong attack on Governor Street and Roman Kreuziger and Gesink were unable to respond. The Spaniard waited for a big group with the likes of Valverde, Degenkolb and Matthews that had gone clear as they hit the finishing straight. At the passage of the line, the gap was only 50 seconds.

 

The Spaniards tried to keep the move alive with Luis Leon Sanchez and Ion Izagirre but it came back together just after the passage of the line. Kreuziger, Martin and Gesink tried an unsuccessful attack and when that failed Kreuziger and Gesink started to ride hard, quickly reducing the gap. With 40km to go, it was only 15 seconds.

 

The Danes hit the front with Juul leading four of his teammates as they approached Libby Hill for the 14th time. That spelled the end for the break which was caught with 36km to go. Moments later the strong group around Boonen was formed and from there it was a furious race all the way to the finish.

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