Sagan Takes Gent-Wevelgem 2013
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has won Gent-Wevelgem. The Slovak wunderkind surged away from the lead group in the last four km to take the hilly, 191-km classic in 4:29:10. Borut Bozic (Astana) outsprinted Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) for second at 0:28.
Weather had much to say about how the race played out. Snow required the start to be moved to Gistel, thereby shortening the course by 54 km. The wind caused the field to split into echelons almost immediately, and the lead group of 25 riders included Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Matti Breschel (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Sagan, and other speedsters. RadioShack-Leopard and later Francaise des Jeux led the chase that merged the two leading groups into a peloton of about 50 riders. .
After 100 km, Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) attacked, and Assan Basayev (Astana) and Mathieu Ladagnous (Francaise des Jeux) joined him. With 77 km left, the break led the bunch by 1:30. Three km later, the fugitives led the pursuit by more than two minutes. At one point, Philippe Gilbert (BMC) accelerated to invigorate the chase, but the Cannondale-led peloton shut down the world road race champion.
On the first ascent of the Baneberg, Gilbert tried again. The peloton brought him back. With 65 km remaining, the break's lead was down to 1:15. Defending champion Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) crashed on a curb and abandoned soon after. Not long before, E3 Harelbeke winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) abandoned to save himself for the Tour of Flanders next Sunday.
The escapees started the first ascent of the Kemmelberg with a 1:16 advantage. With 60 km left, however, 0:30 separated bunch and break. Heinrich Haussler (IAM Cycling) attacked out of the peloton. The break was reeled in with 50 km remaining.
A second break formed. It consisted of Bozic, Sagan and teammate Maciej Bodnar, Flecha, Van Avermaet, Bernhard Eisel (Sky), Yaroslav Popovych (RadioShack-Leopard), Ladagnous, Basayev, Haussler, Andrey Amador (Movistar), Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Belisol). The break led by 1:20 with 40 km left.
The lead leveled off at that margin. Omega Pharma-Quick Step led the chase on behalf of Mark Cavendish, and Lotto-Belisol joined in. With 26 km remaining, Haussler accelerated to speed up the move, but without success.
With 12 km left, the break members stopped cooperating. Sagan was the strongest, fastest member of the group, and no one wanted to give the Cannondale man an armchair ride to the finish. The parrying allowed the pursuit to cut the break's lead to 0:40 with six km remaining.
Two km later, Vandenbergh, realizing that he had no chance in a sprint, attacked. Flecha and Sagan took the Belgian's wheel. Sagan surged and forged a 15-second lead within a km. Van Avermaet and Eisel set out after the Slovak, but they need not have bothered. Sagan popped a wheelie as he crossed the finish line.
Van Avermaet expressed what everyone else in the field felt when he discussed the finale. "When Sagan went," the Belgian said, "I tried to follow him but it wasn't possible. I think Sagan is a bit stronger than the rest of us for the moment." Cavendish expressed the same sentiment when he said, "...Sagan is a machine. He deserved to win today."
Many of today's riders will cross swords in the 2013 Tour of Flanders. Will Sagan overwhelm the field again? Will Cancellara display the form that won E3 Harelbeke? Will a dark horse win? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!
For our US-based readers we have video highlights from the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2013 all week in our videos section. New race video clips are added every evening.