No one wants to take Peter Sagan with them to the Roubaix velodrome and try and beat him in a sprint. If the three-time world champion has proved anything in the last couple of years it is that he is deadly in these reduced group sprints, whether it’s from a group of three or a group of thirty. He doesn’t need a lead-out train, he doesn’t need much of a helping hand from teammates in the final kilometers, and he’ll be a threat as long as he is not entirely out of position or forced to work too hard in the closing stages.
And so, in Paris-Roubaix today, the Slovak was a marked man from the start and it was clear that everything that could be done to negate his chances in the final kilometers was going to be done. Quickstep – a team with numbers at the front of the race – threw rider after rider up the road forcing Sagan and his teammates (and the rest of the race) to chase. Trek had a go, as did Van Aert and GvA from BMC. With 60 kilometers to go it was still a toss up as to who would make it through the final major cobbled sectors and onto the velodrome for the finish in the lead group.
And then, with a little over 50 kilometers to go, Sagan attacked.
It didn’t seem to be a major move, there was no huge wind-up sprint or move to the other side of the road just out of sight; instead, he just seemed to speed up, accelerate off the front of the group of favorites, and push forward. An attack to be sure, but not a scalding one.
And everyone looked around for someone to chase.
And Sagan moved further up the road.
And then he was gone.
Of course, it is easy to scream at the TV and demand that riders who were 200 kilometers into a tiring race chase down Sagan. Tired legs and tired minds can make poor choices sometimes and that’s to be expected. But Sagan was wearing the rainbow jersey, was a favorite for the race, and knew as much as everyone else that he could win on the velodrome if the other riders allowed him to stay at the front. So why didn’t they close the gap immediately? Why didn’t they chase him down?
Who knows, but the end result was that Sagan’s long range attack allowed him to bridge up to the remnants of the morning break, his freshness allowed him to break that group up, and his sprint allowed him to win against the Swiss champion who did all he could to hold the wheel and earn a fantastic second place being the man from Bora.
Like I said: no wants to take Peter Sagan to the Roubaix velodrome.
But Sagan, knowing this, decided to take the race by the scruff of the neck today and make it his own. After all, if no one will take you to the velodrome, why not just get there first yourself?
A great race, a great win, and a wonderful day out on the cobbles for Sagan.