Sunday afternoon saw Peter Sagan of Slovakia win his third consecutive World Championships, retaining the rainbow jersey he’s now picked up on three continents. There was a gap before his celebration began as he didn’t initially know he’d beaten Alexander Kristoff in a photo finish. A couple of bike lengths back was Michael Matthews, with Matteo Trentin fourth and Ben Swift in fifth.
As the field passed the finish line in the Old Town of Bergen for the penultimate time, there were still over 100 men in the field. Inevitably, the attacks came on the final climb of Salmon Hill, with Julian Allaphillipe cresting the hill with a slender lead. He was joined by Gianni Moscon, with Nicki Terpstra and Phillipe Gilbert not far behind.
Nine kms from the end there was doubt over whether the two leaders would stay clear of a fragmenting chase pack, but the gap never cleared ten seconds and a rampaging back were never going to give them the rope to stay clear on a winding finale. Vasil Kiryenka made the junction but was also pulled back. We lost coverage for part of the run into the finish and after that, a dimished but still sizable group fought out the sprint.
The earlier stages of this mammoth race had seen the usual break go clear without any meaningful chances, and as the laps began the teams with multiple options looked to put men in repeated attacks, but none gained any significant gaps. The final lap also saw a crash as riders jockeyed for position at the foot of Salmon Hill, with multiple Belgian riders among those seeing their chances lost after more than six hours in the saddle.
Slovakia will of course be the happiest nation, whilst Kristoff demonstrated once again that the harder the race, the better his chances. Matthews will be disappointed not to have got closer to the winners, after some poor positioning in the finish, whilst the result was superb for both Trentin and Swift. Poland worked hard to miss the top ten entirely. Belgium, Germany and France also had plenty of chances and little to show in the finale.
Sagan recovered from illness to take the start but once he was present at the finish, he was always going to be tough to beat, and he again proved why he’s the biggest name in cycling. He dedicated his victory to Michele Scarponi, who would have celebrated his birthday tomorrow.
With a very different parcours to follow in Innsbruck next year, the classics specialists will now be waiting for Yorkshire for their next chance of rainbows.
- van Avermaet