Peter Sagan claims a memorable victory at Gent-Wevelgem with late solo attack
By Richard Simpson. Last Updated: 24/03/13 8:02pm
Peter Sagan celebrated by pulling a wheelie over the line
Peter Sagan powered to victory at Gent-Wevelgem to claim a long-awaited first win in the Classics.
The Slovakian (Cannondale) had made his way into a decisive 13-man breakaway heading into the final third of the race and surprised his rivals by attacking with 4km to go.
With chase efforts falling flat, Sagan was able to celebrate with a wheelie across the line before Borut Bozic (Astana) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) led home the bunch 28 seconds later.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) finished 18th, in the third group on the road, 40 seconds down.
The lead group had seen their advantage quickly increase as the race entered its final 50km, with the majority of big teams represented at the head of the field.
Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, Lotto-Belisol and Blanco Cycling all tried to mount chase efforts, but with the gap pegged at roughly 1min 30secs, it quickly became apparent the winner would come front the front group.
What was left of the peloton sprinted it out for the minor placings, but there was no repeat of the mass bunch kick of 2012.
Last year's winner, Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), crashed out of the race earlier after hitting a kerb and was joined in failing to finish by Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) and British duo Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) and David Millar (Garmin-Sharp).
Weather that had threatened the event failed to materialise, allowing the race to start in a shortened format. After the ceremonial start in Deinze, the riders, for a second weekend in succession, transferred by bus to the new start in Gistel.
Some 45km shorter, in the freezing cold and wind the race blew apart early on, with an elite front split of 25 forming and featuring the likes of Boonen and Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma - Quick-Step), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Lars Boom (Blanco Cycling), Sagan, Luca Paolini (Katusha) and Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).
Spotting the danger of the missed move, Fabian Cancellara and RadioShack-Leopard led the chase group behind and both factions came back together heading into the final 100km.
Despite a number of speculative digs, nothing was able to go clear until a move of Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM), Mathieu Ladagnous (FDJ) and Assan Bazayev (Astana) went away ahead of the Catsberg climb.
The trio lasted until 52km to go, where a quick regrouping only served as the launchpad for the decisive move of the race, with the 13 men seeing their advantage quickly spin out to over 2min 30secs.
The race finally settled into a holding pattern, which allowed Sagan, helped by team-mate Maciej Bodnar, to take a landmark victory.
1 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, 4:29.10
2 Borut Bozic (Slo) Astana, +28secs
3 Greg van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing, same time
4 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) IAM Cycling, st
5 Juan Antonio Flecha (Esp) Vacansoleil, st
6 Mathieu Ladagnous (Fra) FDJ, st
7 Bernhard Eisel (Aut) Team Sky, st
8 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, st
9 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) RadioShack-Leopard, st
10 Andrey Amador (Crc) Movistar, st
18 Mark Cavendish (GB) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +40