Peter Sagan bows out of his final Tour of Flanders in crash
Retiring star reflects on his 'special' 2016 win as his last classics campaign nears its end.
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OUDENAARDE, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan’s relationship with the Tour of Flanders has been tumultuous at times and the Slovakian ended his final De Ronde with a bump rather than a bang.
The 33-year-old was forced to abandon the race with more than 100 kilometers to go after getting caught up in a mass pileup that rocked the peloton when an errant Bahrain-Victorious rider crashed at the front of the bunch as he tried to take the grassy route around the other riders.
Sagan is set to retire from top-tier road racing at the end of this season as he turns his focus to getting a medal in the mountain bike event at the Olympic Games in Paris next year.
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It was not the end that Sagan or his fans would have hoped for, but he leaves the race with some good memories to go with the negative ones. His biggest success was, of course, his 2016 win when he powered away from the pack to win solo in Oudenaarde.
“I was always thinking about winning it. It was hard from the start of my career because I always had some mechanical problems and stupid things in the race, and it was more about the experience,” Sagan told VeloNews at the start in Bruges.
“After I did one second place behind [Fabian] Cancellara and then a few years later I won it on the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders and it was very special. To do it in the world champions’ jersey, it was beautiful. I think that every rider wants to win the Tour of Flanders because it’s kind of a world championships.”
Once the most exciting young prospect in the spring pack, Sagan will bow out of the classics at the end of next week as the next generation of rider dominates the cobbles.
The Slovakian made his Flanders debut in 2011. He didn’t finish on that first try but he would quickly climb the standings as he notched up a fifth place the following year and then took second behind Cancellara in 2013.
Try as he might, the win seemed elusive for several years until he finally cracked the Flanders code in 2016. Sagan has many big wins on his palmarès, but taking the top step of the podium at De Ronde is among his favorites.
“It means a lot, it is one of the biggest victories that I had in my career,” he said. “It’s beautiful. It’s always great to see the fans, the crowds, the Tour of Flanders is amazing.”
Sagan is keen to go out with style this season, even if that doesn’t mean some big results, and he showed off a special-edition helmet at his final Flanders. His Specialized lid featured gold accents and a lucky fan will have an opportunity to have it as their own.
“We decided with Specialized that for every special race, we will do a special helmet to give away for fans,” Sagan explained.