Our second day into the Belgian classics and it was another nail-biting finish. Defending champion Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) was the one who forced the final selection by taking a flier off the front at 30km out, to be joined by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), Matteo Trentin (Quickstep Floors), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Luke Rowe (Sky). A lot of fun and games once the quintet passed under the flamme rouge kept it exciting, until Sagan put the hammer down to leave the rest in his wake for his first KBK victory. Stuyven roared in second and Rowe completed the final podium.
Rider of the Race
It has to go to the hairiest of them all, Peter Sagan. Determined not to make the mistake of pulling the whole of the break along with him as he did yesterday, Sagan none the less was always in the right place at the right time today. Hooking into the chase group when Zdenek Stybar put in the dig to make a selection on the Oude Kwaremont with 80kms to go, Sagan kept at the back, sometimes freewheeling off the tail, as he let the four Quicksteppers and BMC do most of the work to reel in the 9-man break in front and keep the peloton at bay. He’d certainly made his way up to the front by the time Stuyven took his chance, as he bridged to the Trek-Segafredo rider, followed by Trentin, Benoot and Rowe.
Careful to keep a healthy gap from the peloton, Sagan made sure that the group worked together – and more importantly, equally – so by the time they passed under the flamme rouge, he still had plenty of firepower in his legs. And it sure did look like he was on a rocket when he started his sprint to handily take the victory.
Five things we learned this weekend
1 Barring an injury or crash, it’s pretty certain that Peter Sagan is going to be a constant threat in every race he rides this spring. That doesn’t mean he’s going to win everything. Like Boonen and Cancellara before him, showing strength can either work in your favour or get you marked right out of a race and I suspect there will be races full of frustration for the world champion as they ride into Flanders and Roubaix week. But, again like Boonen and Cancellara, let him get a jump on you and a few bike lengths and you can kiss him goodbye cos you’re not going to see him again until the beer tent.
2 Greg Van Avermaet might just have done a Cadel in the last year. For me, it was the world championships when Cadel Evans took the race by the scruff of the neck that I felt he had fully stepped into his potential and raced with new purpose, grit and fierce joy. The same with GVA and the Rio Olympics. In 2015, he was on the podium for Strade, Flanders and Roubaix but couldn’t get the top step but 2016 looked to be the year he was going to crack it, when he won Omloop for the first time. But his dreams were left in a Belgian gutter when he crashed out of Flanders with a broken collarbone. Fast forward to the summer and his impressive gold medal performance in the road race seemed to put him into a higher bracket. And this spring couldn’t have started better for him, beating Sagan yesterday at Omloop and looking in excellent form for Flanders. From adversity springs sweetness.
3 Trek-Segafredo are going to have a lot of matches to burn in the next two months. What with Fabio Felline finishing fourth yesterday in Omloop, Stuyven second in KBK today – and we haven’t even seen the dynamic duo of Koen de Kort and The Mighty Degs on the cobbles yet. One man might not be able to fill Fabian Cancellara‘s shoes on this team, but they’re putting together a core group of riders who could wreck havoc in the plans of other teams. Considering that Quick-Step were not on the podium in either race this weekend and have not always shown the greatest tactical nous in the past few years, Trek looks itching to fill the gap.
4 You’re not supposed to ride on the bike paths if there are cobbles on the road. Except that, yeah, you can. It isn’t something we’ve learned, it’s something we’ve been reminded of: UCI doesn’t seem to have an appetite to enforce its own rules half the time.
1 Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) 4:37:56
2 Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) s/t
3 Luke Rowe (Sky) s/t
4 Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) s/t
5 Matteo Trentin (Quick-Step Floors) s/t
Header Image: Peter Sagan (©GETTY/Corbis Sport/Tim de Waele)