Peter Sagan decides to 'drop everybody' en route to his first career Ronde van Vlaanderen title in Sunday's 100th edition of the race

Reigning road world champion Peter Sagan finally has his monument. The 26-year-old Tinkoff rider joined a small escape group going over the last few climbs of the 100th Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) Sunday and outlasted the rest of his companions, rolling down the finishing straight solo to take the win.

Sagan held off a spirited late chase by Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo), who missed the move, and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL – Jumbo), who was the last rider dropped from it, over the closing kilometers. Cancellara finished as runner-up, waving to fans as he crossed the line in his final Tour of Flanders, denied what would have been a record-breaking fourth career victory. Vanmarcke took third, while 2015 winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) won the sprint for fourth place after a tough day that saw several big names – among them BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet – crash out.

“It was super hard, the race. From the start until the finish, it was always full gas,” Sagan said. “I had a little problem after 100 kilometers — I had to change both wheels because I broke a wheel. There were a lot of crashes. Thanks to all the team, because they did a very good job.

“We have to think also about two guys [Antoine Demoitié and Daan Myngheer] dying last week. It’s very sad. I want to dedicate this to them.”

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Sagan has won multiple green jerseys at the Tour de France and has taken countless sprint victories in his career, but he decided to rely on his soloing skills in Flanders.

With a breakaway group still up the road, the world champ latched onto a move out of the group of favorites with Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski around 30 kilometers from the finish, and the pair quickly opened a gap. LottoNL – Jumbo’s Sep Vanmarcke joined them moments later and the trio worked hard to close down the distance to the breakaway that included André Greipel (Lotto – Soudal) and Stijn Vandenbergh (Etixx – Quick-Step), making for a strong lead group just ahead of the last two climbs of the race.

Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo) hung near the front of the chasers hoping to close down the advantage on the upcoming cobblestones.

As the leaders hit the Oude Kwaremont, the penultimate climb on the route, the escape group began to disintegrate. Sagan and Vanmarcke pushed on as the rest of the breakers lost ground. Meanwhile, Cancellara charged through the fading remnants of the move in pursuit of the two riders off the front. Sagan and Vanmarcke crested the Kwaremont and then reached the foot of the Paterberg as the race leaders, with Cancellara furiously chasing behind.

The Paterberg gave Sagan his opportunity to take matters into his own hands for good. He put Vanmarcke in his rearview mirror without even leaving the saddle on the steep, cobbled slopes of De Ronde’s final climb.

The man in the rainbow stripes went up and over the Paterberg alone and not even the joint efforts of Cancellara and his new chase companion Vanmarcke could reel him in. Sagan rode the final 13km solo and took a convincing win with a 25-second gap over runner-up Cancellara.

“It’s very hard to work with other guys, because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody, I think,” he said.

As the Flanders winner, Sagan is now a natural top favorite for next weekend’s Paris-Roubaix, but he wants to soak in the joy of finally picking up a Flanders victory before he focuses too hard on the cobblestones of northern France.

“I’m very happy for this. I want to have fun after this big victory. Next week we’ll think [about] next week,” he said.

Sagan’s win marked a particularly impressive day for rainbow jersey wearers — world champ Elizabeth Armitstead won the women’s race Sunday, making road world champions two for two in the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders.

Tour of Flanders results