VeloNews awards 2017: Sagan turns lemons into lemonade

After a series of crushing defeats, Peter Sagan sprinted away from the pack at the Bergen worlds to win his third straight rainbow jersey.

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Editor’s note: To close out 2017, we named our 30th annual VeloNews awards in the November/December issue of VeloNews magazine.

‘Lemons into lemonade award:’ Peter Sagan

The final kilometers of the 2017 UCI Road World Championships saw a number of pre-race favorites embark on fruitless attacks and energy-sapping breakaways. Peter Sagan was not one of them. The two-time defending champion stayed hidden in the peloton, emerging just once to unleash a blistering sprint. The move catapulted him to his third consecutive rainbow jersey with a classic display of efficiency and patience.

Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) lacked those virtues throughout much of his 2017 campaign, which was marred by a series of crushing defeats. In each loss, Sagan’s wasteful attacks and dubious tactics were to blame.

During Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Sagan forged the day’s three-man breakaway. Rather than gauge his effort, Sagan took huge pulls on the front and even slipped off the back (he caught back on). A fresher Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) easily beat him in the sprint.

During Milano-Sanremo, Sagan’s attack again formed the decisive move. Sagan pulled the trio into the final meters and then jumped too early in the sprint. Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky) came around Sagan in the finale to win.

At Gent-Wevelgem, Sagan made the final selection of four, only to be thwarted by Niki Terpstra’s (Quick-Step Floors) decision not to pull through. Sagan waved his arms in frustration as Van Avermaet and Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott) rode away.

Perhaps the worst loss came at the Tour of Flanders. Forced to chase eventual winner Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step), Sagan rode dangerously close to the barriers on the Oude Kwaremont climb. His handlebars hooked a dangling sweatshirt and he crashed.

Did these calamities inform Sagan’s riding at worlds? The famously cryptic world champion gave little insight after his win in Bergen.

“It is not easy guys. The last five kilometers I said it is already gone…” Sagan said. “It came to a sprint. It’s unbelievable.”