"Mr. Second Place, " we said. "Can't do long distances," I whinged. "Green jersey," we groaned resignedly. Peter Sagan put the whinges, sayings and groans to rest today, with a memorable display of skill and speed.
The 260 kilometre race started with an attack from the tallest rider in the peloton. Conor Dunne, standing at 6'8", and riding for the Irish team today, and An Post on any other day, made sure to stay close to the front of the peloton at the started, and ignited the break, which when finally formed consisted of Dunne himself, Ben King (USA), Sung Baek Park (Korea), Andriy Khripta (Ukraine), Carlos Alzate (Colombia), Ivan Stevic (Serbia), Jesse Sergeant (New Zealand) and Serghei Tvetcov (Romania). King was not in it, originally, but bridged, attacking on Libby Hill to the cheers of the home fans.
It was the Dutch who took the early initiative, with Jos Van Emden burning his matches for the majority of the first half of the race in service of his team mates, so the break never got too much of an advantage, and no one was under any illusion that it would succeed. While King and Dunne, the strongest in the group, pushed on, they were caught with 91 kilometres to go, which of course set off the first action of the race, Goncalves and Mas attacking, and then Gesink, with nothing coming out of any of the moves..
Ten kilometres later, the first threatening move got away. Boivin (Canada) and Pantano (Colombia) attacked first, but they were soon caught by Phinney (USA) and Siutsou (Belarus). They got a gap, and were building it when Vanmarcke also attacked for Belgium, taking Geschke, Bennati and Stannard along with him. The next bit of action was a huge crash in the back of the peloton, Majka and Kristoff notably impacted, but they got back in. The Phinney group was brought back with 26 kilometres left.
Then, the most dangerous group of the race got away. Mollema, Kwiatkowski, Viviani, Boonen, Stannard, Moreno and Amador, an unlikely group of seven, but an effective one, had attacked from the front, and started working together to get a gap, bringing it up to over thirty seconds, with Germany - one of the only major nations to miss out - working behind. The group was also caught, and at the start of the final lap, it was all together.
Kanstantin Siutsou attacked for the second time with ten kilometres to go, bringing along an unlikely passenger in Tyler Farrar, who unfathomably was not willing to risk his chances on a sprint. They worked better than might have been expected, getting ten seconds, but with four kilometres to go, they too were brought back, like all the other attackers before them.
A big pre-race question was "when is Stybar going to attack?" It was on Libby hill, with three kilometres to go, gapping everyone but John Degenkolb, with Boasson Hagen and Van Avermaet catching up, and Sagan close behind. Van Avermaet and Sagan attacked next, together, but the Slovakian stretched the elastic, and soon was on his own, with a small gap. He extended it. As he hit Governor Street, he looked on for the title, legs pumping, face twisted into a grimace. Terpstra, Van Avermaet and Boasson Hagen were the closest chasers, but they weren't co-operating, and the peloton were too far away, giving the world championships, and rainbow jersey to Peter Sagan. Ecstatic, he got off his bike, and walked back down the finishing straight, high-fiving his rivals including Tom Boonen.
He accepted the rainbow jersey, smile on his face, and after, said: "I think it's the biggest victory of my career, and I'm very happy because I sacrificed a lot these last three weeks after the Vuelta. It's unbelievable for me. It was a little bit crazy in the last laps, and I thought everyone has to be tired. I gave everything on last cobblestone climb and then it was full gas until the finish.
"I knew if the group caught me, I was very tired for the sprint. But it was the right attack for me. I saw also a lot of comments from people that I am not good for a long race like this. But now I have this jersey for all next year."
Michael Matthews beat out Ramunas Navardauskas in the sprint for seconds, with Alexander Kristoff fourth. Michal Kwiatkowski put up a more than respectable defence of his tile to finish eighth, after attacking more than once.
(Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)