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World Championships: Peter Sagan wins in photo finish to take historic third title

Jack Elton-Walters
25 Sep 2017

Peter Sagan is the first rider to win the World Championships three times in a row

Peter Sagan (SVK) won his third consecutive title by taking the Men's Road Race at the UCI World Championships in a photo finish. The defending champion was anonymous for much of the race but showed himself in the closing few hundred metres and pipped Alexander Kristoff (NOR) for the win.

The course had looked like it would be won by a solo rider, and Julian Alaphilippe (FRA) went away on the last ascent of Salmon Hill but couldn't hold on to the end.

Julian Alaphilippe congratulates Peter Sagan. Photo: Presse Sports / Offside

Once he was caught it came back together for the reduced bunch sprint. The closing 500 metres were scrappy with no single team in control, and from that marauding pack Sagan put his nose in the wind at the last possible moment and passed Kristoff just before the finish line.

Michael Matthews (AUS) completed the podium with Britain's Ben Swift coming across for fifth.

Sagan dedicated his win to Michele Scarponi, who died in a training crash earlier this year.

World Championships Road Race: A busy day in Bergen

Inevitably, a small group went early to get their national jerseys some television time.

The nine men who went away were Connor Dunne (IRL), Sean McKenna (IRL), Alexey Vermeulen (USA), Willie Smit (RSA), Salah Eddine Mraouni (MAR), Andrey Amador (CRC), Kim Magnusson (SWE), Elchin Asadov (AZE), Eugert Zhupa (ALB).

The lead group worked well together and at one point had a gap of over four minutes. However, once Belgium and the Netherlands picked up the pace the breakaway's day soon came to an end.

The early break's advantage tumbled rapidly and the bunch was all back together with 82km left to race. Such an early catch meant that repeated counter-attacks were then launched over the next laps of the circuit.

After some fruitless attempts to go clear, a select group was formed with 65km to go and the riders' motivation was clear from the pace they were setting.

Countries like Germany and Poland who had missed the move contributed to the pace making on the front of the peloton but it hoevered around the 30 second mark despite their efforts.

Marco Haller (AUT), who launched the move that caused the split, was joined by Tim Wellens (BEL), Alessandro De Marchi (ITA) David De la Cruz (ESP), Jalinson Pantano (COL) and Lars Boom (NED).

This group swelled to eight once Odd Christian Eiking (NOR) and Jack Haig (AUS) made it across. The gap then increased to 46 seconds and the danger posed by such a group was clear.

That gap was reduced down to 30 seconds before it shot back up over 40 as the pace in the peloton ebbed and flowed.

France were showing themselves at the front of the peloton on the ascent of Salmon Hill and the distance already covered was taking its toll on many riders as they were shelled out the back.

Nils Politt (GER) was the next to try his luck but spent a long time in no man's land between the leaders and the bunch.

A crash on a narrower part of the course called time on the chances of Tejay Van Garderen (USA) being there by the end. Following this an Italian rider was seen being handed a particularly sticky bottle.

After Politt was caught, Great Britian came to the front and
Tao Geoghegan Hart took a turn on the front with his teammates lined out behind him.

Time Trial winner Tom Dumoulin (NED) stretched his legs but his rivals were alive to it and the move was short-lived.

The breakaway went to bits on Salmon Hill and Dumoulin launched again from the chasing group. Dumoulin caught Boom, and the latter put in a turn for his de facto team leader.

The escape group was down to four riders over the summit, while moves were being launched behind. Rigoberto Uran (COL) accelerated again and again, each time causing a reaction from some other nations.

With 25km to go the peloton was strung out and temporarily all back together before the next attack. Oliver Naesen (BEL) and Sonny Colbrelli (ITA) had a go but didn't get far.

Despite the efforts of some riders the bunch was still as one with 20km left to race. Defending champion Sagan was hard to spot within the bunch, but that tactic later paid off.

Sebastian Langeveld (NED) and Paul Martens (GER) went next but the French-led peloton soon reeled them in.

Tony Gallopin (FRA) pushed on but couldn't gain much of an advantage this late into a long race. A crash in the bunch took out at least three Belgians which would have thrown their gameplan into disarray.

The next to go was another Frenchman, Alaphilippe, who went along on the final ascent of Salmon Hill. He was followed, at a noticeable distance, by a trio but they couldn't get on terms.

Alaphilippe was joined by Gianni Moscon (ITA) on the descent and they started to work together. Søren Kragh Andersen (DEN) led the chase but was unable to bridge across.

The impetus disappeared from the chase group as the riders started to look at one another and the advanatge of the leaders increased.

Vasil Kiriyenka (BLR) and Lukas Pöstlberger (AUT) re-injected some pace and others started to ride again. With that chasing pair in sight, Alaphilippe left Moscon and tried to go it alone. The Italian was soon back in the peloton.

Pöstlberger's hopes were soon dashed when he was passed by the remainder of the peloton.

The bunch was back together before the flamme rouge ready for the sprint.

UCI World Championships Men's Road Race: Result

1. Peter Sagan (SVK), in 06:28:11
2. Alexander Kristoff (NOR), at same time
3. Michael Matthews (AUS), st
4. Matteo Trentin (ITA), st
5. Ben Swift (GBR), st
6. Greg van Avermaet (BEL), st
7. Michael Albasini (SUI), st
8. Fernando Gaviria (COL), st
9. Alexey Lutsenko (KAZ), st
10. Julian Alaphilippe (FRA), st

Photos: Presse  Sports / Offside