Peter Sagan turned around an annus horribilis in style on Sunday, celebrating his third straight road race world title less than three months after being kicked out of the Tour de France.
Sagan was unnoticed during most of the 267.5-kilometerrace. He perfectly timed his final effort, powering to the front in the final straight.
“It wasn’t easy! The last 5km, I said to myself it was already done – it’s gone,” said Sagan at the end of the race. “Then it changed in the front, then I tried to go in the breakaway, and then (Fernando) 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 (Alexander) 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. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s really special.”
“It’s hard to say before a race what will happen. You saw in the climb we were already splitting into two or three pieces,” he explained. “We were being caught from behind and then there was a break in the front, but I was lucky to come into the finish where I did – you can’t predict it – if somebody is stronger in the front, they can easily take the win.”
Sagan became the fifth rider in history to win three road world titles, joining Alfredo Binda, Rik Van Steenbergen, Eddy Merckx and Oscar Freire. It’s unlikely that he will compete for a fourth consecutive title next year in Austria as the course in Innsbruck will be suited to climbers.
“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,” he commented. “It was a sad thing to have happened this year – my best wishes to all his family. I also dedicate this victory”.