A mis-calculation cost Peter Sagan a chance to win a record fourth World Championships title in Yorkshire on Sunday.
The Slovakian, already winner in 2015, 2016 and 2017, saw Italian Matteo Trentin and Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel ride clear, but instead gambled and waited.
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Instead, Dane Mads Pedersen, who was already up the road, won the rainbow jersey. Sagan, stuck behind, ended the 260.7km race fifth.
“I just missed the right move, the one that probably would have made me win my fourth world title,” Sagan told Tutto Bici.
Sagan stayed well protected during the entire rain-soaked day from Leeds to Yorkshire. He relied on Erik Baška and his brother Juraj. When the time mattered, he began to show himself.
Stars like Van der Poel did the same. The young Dutchman attacked at 33 kilometres out and Trentin followed. Sagan is known for these sort of moves, but had to decide whether to go now or later.
“I thought Van der Poel and Trentin would be caught and the race would have ended in a sprint,” he added.
“I definitely mis-read it. Things went differently, not as I expected and imagined.”
The pressure built as the five-man move ahead started thinking about the rainbow jersey. Sagan looked around at the other teams like France and Belgium, whose stars might have still had helpers. Time ran out eventually and Sagan attacked, but with 3.3km remaining it was too late.
“During the last lap I attacked, I wanted to test myself and understand how I was compared to the others, after all, you know that it is in my character to improvise,” he said. “I was not bad, I felt good.”
Belgium had lost Philippe Gilbert to a crash and French star Julian Alaphilippe, like most others, was nullified by the hours of cold, wet weather.
“I was convinced that more teams would have arrived at the final in better condition and could work differently, but due to the weather conditions there were lots of abandons and several national teams remained short of men.”
Only 46 of the 197 starters finished. Sagan did better than in Innsbruck in 2018, when he pulled out due to the amount of climbing in the course.