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ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) felt the need to ride free, and alone, to his 2018 Paris-Roubaix victory.
Sagan dealt with the tactics too often and lost. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) attacked and Sagan did not have his chance in Milano-Sanremo. Quick-Step strong-armed the Tour of Flanders, riding offensively, and then defensively once Niki Terpstra broke fee. In both cases, the most captivating rider of this generation could not shine.
Something had to change. The Slovak ensured his attack came without passengers and minimized any mind games.
“I wanted to have a breakaway alone, I thought, ‘This is the moment, I have to take it,'” Sagan said. “It was a good decision.”
The decision earned him a cobbled trophy and cemented his growing status among the group. He always had the charisma and playfulness — which included riding down the pressroom stairs Sunday on his bike. Now, he has a hefty palmarès.
The palmarès consists of 104 victories. In there, there are three world titles, the Tour of Flanders from 2016, and Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. The victory seemed clear soon after his attack.
It followed Quick-Step’s attempts with Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar, and then one by the 2017 victor Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) when the dust settled on the Orchies sector. Once Sagan went, the gap grew rapidly to one minute.
“They were giving me the time updates all the time, but I was thinking that with five to seven riders behind, they weren’t going to work well together,” Sagan said.
“I thought, I’ll just go constant. If they come to me, OK, and if not, it’s also OK. The guys were attacking behind and that was costing a lot of energy for them. I had very good luck also because I never punctured or was involved in a crash like years before. It just happened. I’m very happy.”
Sagan caught and passed most of the escapees from the day’s early move. He worked with Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale), dropping the former on the Cysoing à Bourghelles sector and then riding with Dillier until the velodrome.
“This is the first time that I was fighting for first place in my life in the velodrome,” continued Sagan. “I was confident, but also, I will never undervalue somebody. In the end, I’m happy how I finished the race because I was also done.
“I asked him if we are going together and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m going to work with you.’ He was putting in more turns in the cobbled stone pieces, and I tried to finish him on the cobbles and thought, ‘Now it’s not possible to drop him.’ I had confidence I could do the sprint, but I was also cramping in the end too. In the end, I did it. It’s a very big moment for me.”