Peter Sagan won Ronde van Vlaanderen in style the 3rd of April, taking the win after a solo breakaway 15km from the finish on the Paterberg climb. The UCI World Champion took his first Monument victory, finishing an exceptionally tough race twenty-five seconds ahead of his rivals.
Seven sectors of pave cobblestones, eighteen climbs and all this over a 255.9km course. Combine that with a fast and furious pace, where the slightest mistake or crash could change the outcome of the race in a moment, the 2016 Ronde van Vlaanderen was never going to be easy.
The UCI World Champion dedicated his win to Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer, the Belgian riders who sadly lost their lives in Gent-Wevelgem and the Criterium International respectively, and to Maciej Bodnar, Peter’s teammate, who was unable to join him at today’s race due to an injury sustained while training this week. “You have to think about the two riders who died last week – it was very sad. I want to dedicate my win to them and to Maciej Bodnar who had a crash in training. I want to wish him well and see him back in the group soon.”
From the start, there were attempts to break away from the peloton, but after almost two hours of racing, nothing had stuck. Shortly before the climbs and cobblestones began at the 100km mark however, a break finally went away, but at such an early stage of the race, the peloton seemed untroubled. As so many of these breaks fell apart all by themselves with no need from the peloton to reel them in, the difficulty of the course became all the more apparent.
With 40km to go, the attacks from the favourites began. With a small group further up the road, at 32km to go, a trio that included Peter Sagan went on the attack, bridging the gap with 23km remaining, leaving the chasing group more than 30 seconds behind them.
Then, on the Kwaremont, the chasers caught Sagan’s group, but instead of being reeled in, Peter attacked, taking Vanmarcke of LottoNL-Jumbo with him, quickly creating a gap. The Paterberg came and Peter, looking calm and composed, made the decisive move, leaving the Belgian Vanmarcke behind him. With less than 15km to go, Peter was alone at the front, quickly putting time into the chasers and creating a significant gap.
Of his solo breakaway, Peter explained from the finish. “The race was very hard today and it’s hard to work with the other guys because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody.”
As Peter passed under the Flamme Rouge, it was clear that the UCI World Champion’s break was going to be successful, crossing the line in Oudenaarde twenty-five seconds ahead of Trek-Segafredo’s Fabian Cancellara. In spite of the gap, Peter was clear that the race was a hard one. “It was a super hard race from the start until the finish, we were always going full gas and I had a bit of a problem after 100km, having to change both wheels. There were a lot of crashes – thank you to all the team they did a great job.” Peter was quick to praise team owner, Oleg Tinkov, for his continued support for the team.
Sport Director, Lars Michaelsen, praised Peter’s huge effort, as well as the rest of the team, after today’s race. “Going into the race our strategy was quite clear – focused on one lone leader and the whole team believed in Peter and the plan. We spoke in our performance plan for the race about who should do what at what time today and everyone really contributed as they could to the victory, so it was a strong display from the whole team today.”
Lars continued. “It was great to see his brother Juraj do a great race as well, giving his everything, and Oscar was there late on for the climbs and for the finale to prepare the move for Peter. The boys kept him out of trouble even though there were a lot of crashes. We had Nikolay Trusov come down and he had to change bike, and when Peter had had to change wheels the team stayed calm and professional. Then when the move came it was from a long way out again, at 35km to go, like we saw in Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, but he’s just a champion in his own right and we of course back him in his decision to go that early. At the end when it was really time to dig in we just kept telling him from behind to believe and that they were cracking behind too. An another amazing ride.”
With Paris-Roubaix a week away, Peter felt it was too early after his win in Oudenaarde to talk about his chances. “I’m very happy for this win. Now I want to have fun after this victory, and next week we’ll think about next week, but not now.”
1. Peter Sagan (SVK) Tinkoff 06:10:42
2. Fabian Cancellara (SWI) Trek-Segafredo +00:00:25
3. Sep Vanmarcke (BEL) LottoNL-Jumbo +00:00:27
4. Alexander Kristoff (NOR) Katusha +00:00:48
5. Luke Rowe (GBR) Team Sky +00:00:48