When Peter Sagan came to the front of this race for the first time, it was but metres from the finishing line. And that’s when it matters after all. The Slovak won again and took his third straight World Championship. The first man to ever achieve the feat. More history for the brilliant Sagan.
It was a great race, though it was also 267.5km of jostling for position in the sprint. A slow wearing down process that weeded out the weak and left 28 men for that sprint. The Bergen course was pretty, but it was tough. It reminded me a lot of the Montreal circuit in that regard. The major climb eliminated many, but on this circuit, proved to be too far out from the finish to eliminate a reduced bunch sprint. And when the camera feed cut with 5km to go, we had to wonder if the previous six plus hours had been for nothing? In the end we were all left like fans at the side of the road, waiting to see who would come around the final corner in front.
And when frustration died down and we could look at it with cool measure, it actually made the finish. There was that added element of unknown. The anticipation of the approaching pack. Was Julian Alaphilippe still away? He had made the last move over that climb. Sagan must have been so tempted to go with him, thinking of Milan-San Remo, but he played a patient game. That in itself is so hard to do. But he gambled everything on the race coming back together and so it did. The cameras picked them up as they came inside the final kilometre. And Sagan emerged from within that pack for the first time inside those final 200 metres. Kicking past the home-nation hero, Alexander Kristoff, to win by a fraction of a wheel. Michael Matthews of Australia was third.
You have to wonder how sick Sagan was? Reports suggested he had been ill all week and off the bike for three straight days. Was he bluffing in the hopes that the others wouldn’t look to him to do the work? If he was then it was a stroke of genius by a master of deception. If it wasn’t and he was under the weather, then it doesn’t say much for his rivals. The Slovak is heads and shoulders above the rest in these kind of races.
So Sagan will once again wear the rainbow jersey. For a third straight year. Daniel Lloyd asked on Twitter how many times Sagan has now raced in his trade team kit? The answer seems to be somewhere around 20% of his professional career. Between rainbow stripes, national champion jerseys, green, yellow and other leaders jersey’s, it isn’t much. Indeed the last time he would have raced in a trade jersey at all, in a non-time trial event, would have been stage 2 of the 2011 Tour de Suisse. He was riding for Liquigas then as a 21 year old.
It has been a wonderful championships in Bergen. And Sagan winning iced the cake. The crowds were enormous throughout; the backdrop splendid and the racing fine. This will be the benchmark by which any future championships will be judged. I would love to see them back in Canada again soon, but that will have to wait. Innsbruck in Austria comes next with a hilly course that might prove tough for Sagan to go for four straight. Though never rule him out! That is followed by Yorkshire in England when you know the crowds will be of record numbers.
For now though we leave the world championships behind, but not one-day racing. This 2017 season may be fading, like the colour from the leaves on the trees. But as summer turns to fall, one more Monument remains. The race of the falling leaves; Il Lombardia. You know, Sagan could go well though, though I’m not sure he’s down to race it. But others who came close but not close enough at these Worlds will see it as once more chance on the season for a big win. Expect many who featured high yesterday to feature high on October 7.