Peter Sagan (Cannondale) struck today in Ghent-Wevelgem to win his first one-day classic. He fired clear from an escape group with two kilometres remaining to win solo.
Sagan being Sagan, waved an imaginary lasso crossing the line and then rode a one-handed wheelie for the photographers.
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“I’ve already wanted to do it, but it would have been hard to pull off in a sprint,” Sagan said of the wheelie. “I was too tired to pull it off well. I had to do it twice.”
It was a proper way to celebrate his first classic win. The 23-year-old Slovak won nearly everything in his short three years as a pro. Last year, he took three stages and bagged the green jersey at the Tour de France.
Already he wanted to win a classic last year and did quite well: Milan-San Remo (fourth), Ghent-Wevelgem (second), Ronde van Vlaanderen (fifth) and Amstel Gold Race (third). Over the winter, he underlined his aim. After second in Milan-San Remo and E3 Harelbeke in the last week, Ghent-Wevelgem only seemed natural.
Haussler hits out
Sagan can thank Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling). The Aussie shot free after the first ascent of the famous Kemmelberg. He drew out eight other riders and rode free.
Mark Cavendish (OmegaPharma-Quick Step), André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol) and other sprinters were left behind.
Their escape group joined a trio with Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) that was already clear. Eleven riders remained coming into the final 20 kilometres: Sagan and team-mate Maciej Bodnar (Cannondale), Flecha, Haussler, Bernhard Eisel (Sky), Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Borut Bozic (Astana), Andrey Amador (Movistar), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)
Vandenbergh attacked at 4km. Flecha and Sagan followed. Flecha waved Sagan through, but instead of a steady pull, he saw Sagan fly by with three kilometres remaining.
Bozic placed second and Van Avermaet third.
The organiser shortened the race yesterday to around 192 kilometres due to a snowstorm that swept through Belgium. The riders arrived to Gistel by bus.
The race split immediately into a power-move of 26 that included Boonen, Cavendish, Sagan and several big names.
RadioShack chased for the first hour to get Cancellara into the front. It succeeded right when the race crossed into France for the two ascents of Casselberg.
Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) forced a three-man move after the Casselberg at 87km to race. Assan Bazayev (Astana) and Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) joined, helping the gap grow to over two minutes.
Sky, BMC Racing and Cannondale maintained control. Gilbert attacked on the Baneberg, but Sagan was close behind. Luke Rowe worked for Sky, Adam Blythe for BMC Racing
Belgian Champion Boonen crashes
Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) crashed against a curb and landed on a bike path with 65km to race. He stuck out his right leg to balance himself, but landed hard on it.
Team staff tended to him and helped him back on his bike. Perhaps with knee pain, perhaps with the Tour of Flanders in mind, he abandoned on the Kemmelberg.
1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale in 4-29-10
2. Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana at 28 secs
3. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
4. Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling
5. Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Vacansoleil-DCM
6. Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ
7. Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Sky
8. Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma-QuickStep
9. Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Leopard
10. Andrei Amador (Crc) Movistar at same time
Peter Sagan’s victory wheelie