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After the race had split to pieces in the crosswind, Sagan won the sprint from a 20-rider group to become the sixth rider to defend a Worlds title; Cavendish was second and Boonen took third

Photo: Tinkoff / BettiniPhoto (Graham Watson)






16.10.2016 @ 16:11 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Peter Sagan (Slovakia) became the sixth rider to retain his World Championships crown when he came out on top in a hard, selective race in Qatar. Having made it into a 26-rider group when the peloton split in the crosswinds, he timed his sprint perfectly to hold off Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) and Tom Boonen (Belgium) and defend the rainbow jersey that he will proudly wear in 2017 too.


Since the first World Championships were held in 1927, only five riders have managed to win the title two years in a row. Georges Ronsse became the first rider to do so and since then Rik Van Steenbergen, Rik van Looy, Gianni Bugno and Paolo Bettini have all accomplished the feat.


Today the elite club got a new member as Peter Sagan did it again one year after he conquered his first title in Richmond. In a very exciting and aggressive race in the Qatari desert, he benefited from tough conditions and an impressive Belgian team to take another victory in the most prestigious one-day race.


Sagan showed his strength when the Brits grabbed the initiative to split the field when they turned into a short crosswind section after 70km of racing. In a matter of seconds, there were riders all over the road and when the dust had settled, Sagan found himself in the select group that had emerged.


Surprisingly, Sagan had his only two teammates, his brother Juraj and Michal Kolar, at his side in a group that included no less than six out of nine Belgians as well as sprinters Mark Cavendish, Alexander Kristoff, Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani and Michael Matthews. The big losers were France, Colombia and Germany as France had Nacer Bouhanni in the second group, Fernando Gaviria was taken out by a crash and Germany had both Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb in the second bunch. John Degenkolb was in the first group but suffered a badly timed puncture.


With six Belgians in the front, there was plenty of firepower to keep the second group at bay and after a long, hard chase, it became apparent that the winner was in the first group. Surprisingly, there was just a small attack from Greg Van Avermaet and Niki Terpstra and a late bid for freedom from Tom Leezer and so it all came down to a 20-rider sprint. Sagan timed his effort perfectly to edge out Cavendish and Boonen and so secure himself another year in the rainbow jersey.


After a slow start that was dominated by the early break of Brayan Ramirez (Colombia), Sergiy Lagkuti (Ukraine), Natnael Berhane (Eritrea), Anas Ait El Abdia (Morocco), Nic Dougall (South Africa), Ryan Roth (Canada) and Rene Corella (Mexico), the race really started after 70km of racing. As the peloton approached the turning point, it was one big sprint to be first through the crucial turn. Luke Rowe won the battle and then the Brits tried to split the field, Ben Swift, Rowe, Adam Blythe and Mark Cavendish all took turns and immediately the peloton split to pieces.


The Belgians had promised to ride aggressively and that’s what they did when they took over the initiative from the Brits. They made the group explode even further and while Tom Dumoulin (Netherlands) suffered a very untimely puncture, they whittled the main group down to less than 30 riders.


In the huge fight for position, all the big classics specialists took turns and riders were constantly dropped. Furthermore, things split even more when Jose Goncalves (Portugal) and Eric Marcotte (USA) hit the deck hard. At the same time sprinters like Caleb Ewan, Dany Van Poppel and Juan Jose Lobato and classics riders like Rowe, Geraint Thomas, Matteo Trentin and Daniel Oss all exploded.


When the dust had settled, the main group consisted of Peter Sagan, Juraj Sagan, Michal Kolar (Slovakia), Adam Blythe, Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), John Degenkolb (Germany), William Bonnet (France), Tom Boonen, Jens Keukeleire, Oliver Naesen, Jurgen Roelandts, Jasper Stuyven, Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium), Mathew Hayman, Michael Matthews (Australia), Daniele Bennati, Elia Viviani, Jacopo Guarnieri, Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy), Niki Terpstra, Tom Leezer (Netherlands), Edvald Boasson Hagen, Truls Korsæth, Alexander Kristoff (Norway), Sam Bennett (Ireland) and Magnus Cort (Denmark). Further back, the likes of Marcel Kittel, André Greipel, Nacer Bouhanni, Alexander Porsev, Dylan Groenewegen, Zdenek Stybar, Taylor Phinney, Jens Debusschere and Fernando Gaviria found themselves in the second group


Disaster struck for Degenkolb as he punctured out of the lead group and so Germany suddenly had no one in the main group. He joined forces with Kittel and Greipel in the second group. Juraj Sagan also dropped back. Meanwhile, Ramirez crashed out of break but he managed to rejoin the leaders.


At the 100km mark, the first peloton was 2.30 behind the leaders while the second group was 50 seconds behind. The gap stayed around 50 seconds even though almost everyone worked hard in the second group. However, the gap to the leaders was melting away and with 143km to go, they were brought back.


Disaster struck for Cort who punctured out of the first group and dropped back to the second group and Bennett was also distanced. Further back, the third and fourth group merged into a rather big field which quickly approached the second bunch.


The first group slowly increased their advantage as the gap had gone out to 1.10 when they hit the final 125km. The situation was unchanged when they hit the circuit.


The second group was losing some momentum when Imanol Erviti (Spain) and Marco Haller (Austria) started to attack but the group soon came back together. The Austrian tried again a little later but he did nothing more than breaking the rhythm,


Bennati led the first group across the line for the first to start the first of the seven laps of the 15.2km circuit. Haller was 54 seconds behind and the second group had lost 1.11. The third group was at 3.42 and so they were out of the battle.


When Haller was brought back, Schär was the next rider to make a solo move. He didn’t make it either and then Bodnar tried to split the group. Degenkolb also gave it a go but then the group came to a standstill. At the end of the first lap, they were 1.28 behind.


Keukeleire, Stuyven, Naesen and Bennati did most of the work to keep the first group going and they had extended the gap to 2 minutes as they hit the final 80km. Here Blythe suffered a puncture but he managed to rejoin the group.


At the end of the second lap, the gap was still 1.49 and it was 1.56 at the end of the third lap. Kittel and Degenkolb were working hard together with Kuznetsov but they failed to get any closer to the leaders. In fact, they were 2.34 behind when they crossed the line again and as the trio all abandoned after the passage of the line, it was all over for the grpip.


In the front group, Korsaeth started to work with Bennati, Stuyven, Naesen and Keukeleire and the quintet set the pace for the next lap. The latter swung off just before they started the penultimate lap and left it to the other four riders to keep things together.


Stuyven led the group onto the final lap and it was still a waiting game. The group was together as they entered the final 10km and two kilometres later, Naesen ended his work. Stuyven took one final big turn and Bennati did the same before Korsæth took over for Norway.


The attacking started with 5km to go where Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Hayman gave it a go but Boasson Hagen shut it down immediately. Instead, Kolar hit the front to set Sagan up for a sprint win.


Kolar swung off as they passed the 3km to go mark and then Korsæth hit the front. However, the group almost came to a standstill and this opened the door for Leezer to give it a go. The Dutchman soon got a 5-second advantage and as Korsæth did not get any help in the chase effort, he managed to hit the final kilometre with his gap intact.


Roelandts finally came to the fore and his big effort nullified the attack before Guarnieri hit the front with Nizzolo on his wheel. He gave his compatriot the perfect lead-out but it was Boonen who launched the sprint first. Sagan was far back but was lucky to find and opening on the right-hand side and had plenty of speed to come around Boonen. Cavendish had been on Sagan’s wheel but when he moved to the left, he was hampered by Matthews and so had to settle for second, with Boonen completing the podium. Matthews and Nizzolo completed the top 5.


A flat course

With the World Championships done and dusted, the road season is almost over. However, many riders sill stay in the Middle East for the Abu Dhabi Tour which starts on Thursday.


The 2016 World Championships were held on a completely flat 257.3km that started and finished in the Qatari capital of Doha. The first 150 km were held in the desert as the riders travelled north and then returned to the city centre along a straight road. Here they hit the flat, curvy 15.2km circuit and after having done almost one full lap, they ended the race by doing seven laps.


A break is formed

It was another brutally hot day in Qatar when the riders gathered in Doha and there were some nervous and tense faces as they rolled through the neutral zone. When the flag was dropped, it took a little while before Daniel Teklehaimanot (Eritrea) launched the first attack but he failed to get clear.


The aggression continued for a little while but after less than 5km, Brayan Ramirez (Colombia), Sergiy Lagkuti (Ukraine), Natnael Berhane (Eritrea), Anas Ait El Abdia (Morocco), Nic Dougall (South Africa), Ryan Roth (Canada) and Rene Corella (Mexico) managed to build a small advantage. As the peloton soon slowed down, the gap grew rapidly and it had already reached 1.30 after 10km of racing.


Siutsou starts to chase

The strong headwind meant that the start was very slow and so the gap had gone out to 8.35 at the 20km mark. It reached 1130 before Kanstantsin Siutsou (Belarus) finally started to chase in the peloton. Clearly working for trade teammate Mark Cavendish, the Belarusian reduced the gap to 10 minutes.


The tension was clearly growing as Great Britain asked Stephen Cummings to share the work with Siutsou. While the pair continued to ride on the front, Chad Haga (USA), Adam De Vos (Canada) and Bernhard Eisel (Austria) were involved in the first crash but no one suffered any major injuries.


A nervous peloton

Siutsou and Cummings kept the gap at 10 minutes while the nervousness slowly decreased. However, that was only a small chance to recover as things really heated up when 185km remained. That’s when the Dutchmen made a small acceleration and this created a big fight for position.


The Brits tried to regain control as Cummings returned to the front but they were soon passed by the Australian duo of Zak Dempster and Steele Von Hoff. Meanwhile, the selection started in the front group where Corella was the first to get dropped. Moments later, the fight intensified massively and when they turned into the crosswind, the real race started.



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