It had been a frustrating 2015 for Slavakian cyclist Peter Sagan prior to the World Road Race Championships in Richmond, Virginia on Sunday. Although he had claimed his first Grand Tour stage victory for two years when beating the peleton on the third day of the Vuelta a Espana and had won the points classification in the Tour de France, his failure to win a stage in the French race was a cause of much personal irritation after several close finishes. There was also much anger at the roadside during the eighth day of the Vuelta when on the approach to Murcia, a motor cyclist collided with Sagan causing much damage to his left thigh and arguments with officials. The resulting injuries combined with a mood of bitterness enforced his withdrawal from that race but all that agony was forgotten on the streets of Richmond.
The annual UCI World Championships are staged over a week-long period culminating in the Men’s road race for national teams as opposed to the sponsored versions for normal stage racing. For the 2015 renewal, the race covered 15 x16 kilometre laps of Richmond in the USA which followed an opening 18 km circuit. Although each lap featured several areas of flat terrain, the short but steep climbs of 23rd and Governor Street were included as was the cobbled uphill section of Libby Hill.
For most of Sunday’s race, the main peleton remained intact as several attacks formed but were unable to be sustained. As the riders climbed Libby Hill for the final time, there were still several cyclists in contention with Peter Sagan ominously moving closer to the front. Sagan is arguably one of the best all-rounders among the road racing riders but sometimes just lacks that extra zip at the finish of a flat stage, yet he can still be a dangerous opponent on hilly terrain. He will confess to his limitations as a true mountain man.
Winning two stages of Tour de Suisse this season and finishing fourth in both Milan-San Remo and one day Tour of Flanders confirm his consistency but claiming victory in a bunch sprint is not one of Sagan’s greatest strengths.
With the cyclists approaching the very steep 23rd Street and less than 3km remaining in Sunday’s race, Sagan was probably aware that he wouldn’t be able to claim victory with so many riders still in contention, and so he gambled by attacking on the short rise. His move proved to be the defining moment of the contest.
A gap was secured which was maintained on the less demanding hill of Governor Street allowing Sagan to win his first World title with some ease. Sagan can be described as a character with an explosive temperament but with an equally approachable manner and this victory was much deserved for a rider who has not enjoyed that much luck this season.