World champion Peter Sagan on Sunday cleverly clinched a bunch sprint to win the Gent-Wevelgem, attacking early when his main rival Elia Viviani was boxed in.
With the peloton whittled down to 25 riders, four of them from Quick-Step Floors, the Bora-Hansgrohe man timed his attack to perfection with 200m of the 251km race remaining, and only Frenchman Arnaud Demare could go with him until Viviani got free and launched a desperate, but thrilling late attack.
The Belgian outfit had banked on their Italian sprint specialist after their four riders failed to drop the other pretenders over the final few kilometers.
Viviani certainly proved he had the speed, flying past Demare, but it was too late to catch Sagan, who maintained his own powerful burst for the line.
“It was a complicated sprint, it’s always a bit of a lottery,” 28-year-old Sagan told reporters. “I started early and in the end it was good. I had the legs to hold the lead.”
Viviani was so distraught at fluffing his lines in a region where his team have their headquarters he sat down and cried in frustration, while third-placed Demare is showing the form of his life after coming second at Milan-San Remo the previous weekend.
It was a record-equaling third Gent-Wevelgem win for Sagan, who joins five other men including Eddy Merckx and Mario Cipollini in achieving the feat, after previous victories in 2013 and 2016.
“This was easy because of the lack of wind, nothing crazy like three years ago. It was a very fast race,” Sagan told a reporter. “There wasn’t much wind so there was a big group of us, otherwise the group would have been smaller.”
Sagan also suggested the steep cobbled climb of the Kemmelberg hill, where John Degenkolb and Alexander Kristoff got left behind, had suited him.
“The hill was OK for me, I felt fine,” said Sagan, whose form had been questioned after the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, where he looked less sharp.
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