UCI Road World Championships: Key moments of final race for rainbow

UCI Road World Championships: Key moments of final race for rainbow

Peter Sagan yesterday retained his World Championship title ahead of Mark Cavendish, but it wasn't without its struggles.

Ollie Haggart

On Sunday Slovakia's Peter Sagan managed to retain the rainbow jersey ahead of Britain's Mark Cavendish, as the preeminent UCI World Championships bowed out of Qatar.

It has been a monumental season for Sagan, with an array of impressive victories being added to his palmares, but this did not stop him from playing down his chances of winning a second World title. However, despite the flat course being suited to the pure sprinters in the peloton, Sagan's hard-work prevailed once more, leaving the number of cynics in the Puncheur's talent at almost none.

The setting, the field and the pressure of being the first rider since Paolo Bettini (2006-07) to take two consecutive World Championship wins made this race much harder, whilst it made the victory all that much sweeter, as we take a look at what the key points were in Sagan's success.

​No Qatar query's from Sagan

​Similarly to the World Cup, when Qatar was announced to be the host of 2016's UCI Road World Championships, many fans and pundits were quick to question why. The baron deserts, the sweltering heats and the lack of spectators all seemed like valid reasons to dismiss Qatar's bid as host.

However, it was granted, meaning the riders simply had to adapt and to the unique conditions - something that Sagan was seemingly able to do effortlessly. The flat route perhaps suited all riders due to it's overheating limitation factor, but plenty of other aspects such as the crosswinds weren't so kind to the peloton.

The race suddenly sprung to life as the riders reached the most northerly point in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, with eventual third placed Tom Boonen and his Belgium compatriots along with one better Mark Cavendish and the British team causing a fracture in the peloton.

The leading group, spearheaded by 2005 champion Boonen and teammates including Olympic Champion Greg Van Avermaet was composed of around 30 riders, one of which was Sagan - who was relying on support from brother Juraj and hardworking Michal Kolar; it seemed as if the 26 year-old was unphased by anything, with his only focus being to retain his title.

​Final sprint unkind to Cavendish

The first attack for the final sprint surprisingly came from a Dutchman, despite the nation not imposing themselves upon the leading group before the final five kilometres or so; Tom Leezer, the 30-year-old Dutchman broke away with 2.5 kilometres remaining, giving himself a commanding lead in the final moments of the race.

Leezer held his lead as he passed under the red kite, and was only passed with 300 metres to go, as the expected sprint was opening up around him. As expected, 2011 World Champion Mark Cavendish was poised alongside reigning Champion Sagan, with it looking to be a battle between the two come the final 100.

Unfortunately for Cavendish, the route he was aiming to take was temporarily blocked by Matthews (Australia), leaving him with considerably more work to do than Sagan who powered down the right hand side of the stretch, making light work of Nizzolo (Italy).

Cavendish was left to wonder what might have been / Getty Images / Bryn Lennon
Cavendish was left to wonder what might have been / Getty Images / Bryn Lennon

Sagan eventually won by a bike length, with Cavendish following in second. Boonen was unable to make the most of Belgium's numerical advantage, as he settled for third position. Although there is no rider more deserving of the rainbow stripes that will adorn Sagan's jersey come next year, it could have all been so different if Olympic silver medalist Cavendish did not have his path blocked.

Deserved rainbow retention

Although a couple of aspects of the 2016 World Championships arguably went in the favour of Sagan, it is hard not to acknowledge all that he has achieved over the past year and not see how he shall merit the World Champion jersey with pride.

Achievements include first in the European Road Race Championships, points classification winner along with three stages at the Tour de France, and wins at classics such as the Tour of Flanders and Gent-Wevelgem, all whilst racing in the Olympics in the mountain biking.

Perhaps one of the most diligent riders of the peloton, Sagan has overcome the odds on more than one occasion, and is more than deserved of his two-time World Champion title.