The Moment The World Championships Were Won

Monday, 25 September 2017

267.5km and a repeat win for Peter Sagan. He bided his time launched a long sprint and timed his throw to the line to win by centimetres. This was a win earned in the final seconds but also built on the foundation of recent years. With two titles already there was no need to gamble with attacks or chase too many rivals, Sagan could play the percentages when others were chasing rainbows.

The early break had two World Tour riders included with Alexey Vermeulen from the US and Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador, not someone to gift a big lead. With 112km Maxim Belkov attacked out of the bunch, a sign the race was warming up. 71km to go and France’s Warren Barguil attacked on the branded climb of “Salmon Hill” but was countered by a move launched by Tim Wellens who was joined by Lars Boom (Netherlands), Jack Haig (Australia), Marco Haller (Austria), Alessandro De Marchi (Italy), Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia), David de la Cruz (Spain) and Odd Christian Eiking (Norway) and Barguil’s retreat into the bunch left the French team along with Poland taking up the chase.

The Wellens group took 30-40 seconds but couldn’t get further, it wasn’t that dangerous but it was a lure to force others to chase. Tom Dumoulin attacked with 32km to go and it seemed like the race could suddenly catch fire given his form and apparent ambition but the peloton still had over 100 riders and while some planned to sit tight there were plenty of workers willing to chase.

Onto the final climb and a spectator’s sleeping bag rolled into the road, a sign that it was finally time for TV viewers to wake up. Tony Gallopin (France) was the first to take a flyer up Salmon Hill. He’s a good rider but like many salmon trying to scale a waterfall it doesn’t work on the first attempt and he couldn’t drop everyone à la pédale. This was softening exercise that baited others into responding all while team mate Julian Alaphilippe could sight tight. Alaphilippe saved his explosive jump for the second half of the climb and briefly there was a Quick Step moment with the likes of Niki Terpstra and Philippe Gilbert in pursuit but they couldn’t close the gap.

Alaphilippe was joined by Italy’s Gianni Moscon who’d earlier crashed. Video showed him getting a long tow from the Italian team car and he’d duly get disqualified – not only is this cheating but it’s self-defeatingly stupid because it will be filmed and posted online – but for now he was in the head of the action. The tow might have helped but Moscon was fading and Alaphilippe surged away on the cobbles around Bergen’s docks. The Frenchman took a gamble going solo as Lukas Postlberger and Vasil Kiryienka closed in with a group of about 30 riders just metres behind too. Then the TV blacked out, a power cut apparently and first the moto cameras went, the helicopter and for a minute nothing could be seen until the riders reached the finish line with Magnus Cort Nielsen taking a solo flyer, countering a brief attempt by Gilbert and Fernando Gaviria floating off the front too, blunting his sprint and certainly not showing the economy of Sagan. It came back together and we got a sprint lead out by Italy’s Alberto Bettiol which briefly made you wonder which team he was going to for 2018 but perhaps he was just trying to take a flyer rather work for others? Inevitably Sagan was perfectly placed on the final corner and surged clear with Kristoff alongside him and the Slovak timed his throw to win his third consecutive rainbow jersey.

Sagan’s sprint was all the more impressive because this was a downhill finish, to outdo a powerhouse like Kristoff may well be as satisfying for the Slovak as beating Cavendish and Boonen last year in Doha. Yet this was not his finest win, one of those rides where he wins in a manner that nobody else can, unlocking a race with power or skills that nobody else seems to possess, such as the 2016 Ronde Van Vlaanderen or the 2016 Tour de Suisse Rheinfelden rampage. Kristoff did a great ride to take second place and finished off the very visible work of the Norwegian team. Matthews meanwhile was close once again, fourth last year and second in Richmond.

The Verdict
The race doesn’t pass the “DVD test”: this was not a vintage edition where you’d buy the video to keep and watch again and again (and not just because the TV coverage suffered a late power cut). It wasn’t until the final lap came alive Sanremo-style. Alaphilippe’s attack left the world’s best trailing but once again enlivens a race only to lose out. It’s just a matter a time until he wins big, maybe in Lombardy very soon. The brief TV meltdown only heightened the suspense for a moment but we missed several moves. Either way it meant a frantic finale for participants and viewers alike. We see him everywhere yet Sagan remains an elusive character, a big personality but one played out via short videos and animated GIFs, who knows his world view?

It ends a great week in Bergen, a great host and if the weather was cool the welcome was very warm, perhaps the biggest crowds since Duitama in 1995, maybe bigger. The courses were good and offered some excellent racing all week and even the men’s time trial up Mount Fløyen was thrilling and we’ll see if the new Lappartient regime stipulates equal courses for men and women in Innsbruck next year.

Photo credits: Einar Kvalheim, Trinadh Rakesh and Bjørn Erik Nesse via bergen2017.no

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Bilmo September 25, 2017 at 10:48 am

I cant believe you didn’t mention the elephant on the course at 3km to go or the spaceship at 2.5km to go…

Thought the lost pictures added to the tension. The race was definitely a bit flat until the last lap. There is discussion about making male and female course the same, but was this course a example of why not. The other races over the weekend were all really interesting but maybe the hill was just not hard enough for the top male pros.

The flip side of that argument is that maybe the race is just too long. The womens race was half the distance? this seamed to allow attacks from the start where as the men had a 50km roll out following by another 200km of conserving energy.

Anonymous September 25, 2017 at 11:11 am

And yet only 26 came to the line in the front group – the distance matters.

AP September 25, 2017 at 11:20 am

Maybe the race actually needs to be much longer, something like the dance-off in They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?.
#Joking

Monty September 25, 2017 at 1:48 pm

I think that the courses have become too easy, hopefully next year with it’s 8km climb and 3km climb with 25% at the finish might just be hard enough for the male elite. However, I think that the world courses have become too easy in years compared to the ability of the elite men. Really we should have a course with the zoncalan 4 times and with a finish on the stentaria. Courses with proper elevation and steepness instead of being bought out by money, *cough* Israel in the giro *cough*.

Morten Reippuert September 25, 2017 at 7:16 pm

no need for zolcan, just do the Ötzaler raddmaraton while they in the area:

http://ext.soelden.com/oetztal/events/radmarathon/hoehenprofil.pdf

Kühtai, Brenner (hardly a bump), Jaufenpass and Timmelsjoch… even the 239km distance would be suiting for a UCI elite race.

guess they wont do it.. too tough for the pro’s, even in a GT.

Vitus September 26, 2017 at 1:34 am

The pros who rode the first PRO Ötztaler this August obviously didn’t get your memo that it’s too tough for pros…..

ZigaK September 26, 2017 at 5:44 pm

Kreuziger, who won, beat the previous record by half an hour.

Johnny September 27, 2017 at 12:06 am

Uhm, no.

This year’s fastet amateur rider: 6:56:34 (https://services.datasport.com/2017/velo/oetztaler/rang010-001.htm)
Kreuziger: 6:37:34 (http://www.procyclingstats.com/race/PRO_Otztaler_5500_2017)

Time difference: 19 minutes.

Having ridden the race as well I could no believe my eyes when Kreuziger went over the last little climb after the Timmelsjoch on the big ring…

Richard S September 25, 2017 at 11:21 am

I had no idea Gilbert or Gaviria tried to attack! My prediction for the race, that it was too hilly for Sagan or a group sprint, proved spectacularly wrong. It just shows how incredibly strong the elite men are that a course that is selective for everyone else was relatively easy for them despite them doing twice the distance. Alaphilippe needed a couple of riders to go with him and ride, which was probably never going to happen. He needed Kwiatkowski and a couple of others who were undisputed team leaders, if there was anyone else. If Gilbert had got over he would have probably sat on with GVA behind and Moscon had Trentin waiting in the wings. Overall despite the race being a tiny bit anti climactic (maybe because Sagan keeps winning its getting a little bit TDF-ish?!) I think it was an excellent worlds with an interesting course, great scenery and fantastic fans.

Ecky Thump September 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

These 6-9% hills are gobbled up these days.
Power climbs, drafting, call it what you will but even the sprinters are flying over them.

DAVE September 25, 2017 at 1:51 pm

I think this is a good point, it felt like a dated circuit, probably hard to have much more given it needs to show off the city, but it didn’t give the option of interesting tactics the way this year Flanders did etc (although the tactics may become more restricted on that circuit in coming years). Maybe imagining riders from 10-20years ago suffering on the climbs more than they did but you do feel they should know and have come up with something a bit more spicy from 100km out or so.

Given some years needs to favour sprinters, some classics, some middle mountaineers, some even true climbers (very rarely) – then you’re going to have some dud years I guess.

Watching five hours to see a sprint finish is quite rarely going to feel worthwhile.
Although given the actual finishers in the reduced bunch yesterday, if I’d seen that on paper I’d have expected it to be more interesting race.

I wish there were just wacking great climbs at the start that kicked off a day long chase! But probably pie in the sky.

It feels like a good worlds course doesn’t match up with the needs of a town paying for image reasons and putting it on for a week etc.

Richard S September 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm

20 years ago was the height of the EPO era so I doubt they would have struggled?! The climb would have been decisive if it wasn’t so far from the finish. The course needed another little hill in the last 5km.

DAVE September 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm

Probs true, but even since/during/after EPO era San Remo has had to shift to keep up with rider progress, not sure it’s straight up retro riders would’ve been sailing over that mound – but agreed another hill would have helped. Or everyone would have waited for that and it’d have been even less eventful! *(Like Richmond where only the final ramp proved decisive) Who knows… Something just feels off with the Worlds model to give a great race, I’m not sure why. D

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 3:02 pm

@DAVE
I don’t know what your definition of EPO era is, but the Sanremo *didn’t* introduce any relevant change to its course from 1982 (Cipressa) to 2008 (finish line to Lungomare Italo Calvino instead of via Roma, which is back since a couple of years ago; first appearance of Le Manie climb, later removed, too).
All the same, within what probably was the *very same* “doping framework”, so to say,the kind of riders and victories changed a lot: from GC champions in the last 80s and first 90s, to one-day Classics specialists until the second half of the 90s when a reign of pure sprinters started, rarely interrupted by occasional Classics rider feats.

As it’s often the case, doping doesn’t look to be actually working *at all* as a factor which can satisfactory explain any technical cycling trend, unless there’s a proven difference in power between subjects on the institutional level (and even so, we’re speaking of single situations of a few individuals or teams, it doesn’t work to explain a general trend).

The technical question is probably related to the fact that less and less riders, when compared to a couple of decades ago, are training to perform through a constant high level output for one hour or so (after having been already *tired*, I mean, not like an ITT: and even in ITTs you notice that many recent riders prefer a theoretically worse pattern of rising power towards the finale). We can see that both in GT mountain stages and in some (of the most disappointing) Classics as well: to achieve the required ten-minutes shift in pace, you need to be saving energies the rest of the time. And it’s not about doping: the final “afterburners” is actually faster than what a doped rider could achieve. It’s more about concentrating the effort. Obviously, it only makes sense with strong teams whose gregari are able to perform on a level only marginally inferior to a top rider, thus keeping at bay possible middle-range attacks. Then the phenomenon is self-reinforcing: if you don’t prepare like that, you’ll generally find yourself on the back foot when the bunch forces the kinf of situations suited to most; and if you indeed prepare like that, you’ll soon discover that you don’t have any middle-range realistic option anymore, hence you just add your bet to the general waiting game. It’s the whole accessible effort-output curve which has generally changed a lot, irrespective of what its “integral” is (which is what doping might change).

Anyway, of the last 10 editions of the Worlds, at least 4 presented some *significant* middle to long range action before the finale (even if it eventually might have failed). Doha had it – thanks to Boonen, not to the course, but truth is that we got it – as well as Florence and Mendrisio (more about the course), and I’d add Geelong, too (credits to Gilbert). Varese sits someway halfway (define “significant”…) but it was interesting, and a decent course, too.
Not a great percentage but not a disaster, either.

frood September 25, 2017 at 11:33 am

I seem to be in the minority of really enjoying it. ok, it was a slow burn but the tension was building nicely from some way out. when the wellens group formed i thought it had potential but needed a few more big names (not that it wasn’t a strong group) and the fact that france and poland missed out meant that it was never going to get much leeway.

if it wasn’t a bluff that he was feeling ill then i think sagan played it perfectly because he wouldn’t have had the power to launch a long range move. he gambled on the sprint and executed it perfectly. in some ways i would count it as one of his better wins – just without the razzmatazz of some others (i think his stage win at the tirreno-adriatico this year was just sublime, great combo of strength, tactics and gamesmanship).

GrahamG September 25, 2017 at 11:38 pm

Yep, enjoyed it a lot. There were shades of MSR in the pacing then with the hares off the front on the final climb and the baying hounds closing in. The final bunch was very selective and was rounded out by a couple of GC riders which showed how full on the last climb was.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 2:27 pm

The finale of a Sanremo is way more exciting, IMHO, even if it must suffer the disadvantage of being shown on TV which makes it less thrilling than the Bergan finale, indeed.
The progressive and cumulative acceleration of time and events is what makes Sanremo interesting, not just the chasing dynamics in itself.

Hard to define “selective” a bunch with some 30 riders, especially given that most of them were actually in contention in the very last km (the only limitation being their level of skills).
The GC riders reference isn’t really meaningful: most of them are actually notable Classics racers, too; but you say, and rightly so, “a couple”.
I’d dare to say that you were thinking about Zakarin and Dumoulin, who, anyway, were well out of the top-20… but my point is that it’s to be seen if they are only-GC specialists because of their set of skills or because they decided so (they’ve even shown some relevant glimpses of one-day potential, it’s just that they don’t try seriously those races anymore, like other GC riders did and do: Aru is a current example). Dumoulin has got notable results in San Sebastián, Strade Bianche, Liège, the Canadian races, GP Wallonie, as Zakarin has in the Doyenne, too, besides two or three quite good Italian and Spanish semiclassics.

The fact that the course doesn’t prove itself much selective is common at the Worlds (30 riders or so faced the last Cauberg in 2012 – very mediocre Worlds, indeed; a bit like Richmond), but at least the final turn of the screw is usually more brutal, with just a handful of athletes being really left in contention (think Ponferrada).
However, what’s really working is the lack of any relevant previous action. It’s the strategy all along the day which can shift the final situation from a framework to a different one. Sometimes it didn’t happen but the course would allow that, and it’s just the teams who didn’t go that way, sometimes you can hardly imagine any meaningful plan on those roads (among the pros, at least): Bergen looked like the latter. I’ll acknowledge that the organisers – pretty much reasonably – counted on rain, which would have changed the whole scenario… but the weather went against the odds.

A great winner for a not-so-great edition on a mediocre course, at least speaking from a technical POV: in fact, the crowds and sights were wonderful.

STS September 25, 2017 at 11:37 am

Considering that the road WC wears that very visible jersey for a whole season I don’t think that the courses in Bergen were selective enough. If a peloton of more than 80 riders enters the last lap of a 267 km race you know that hardly the best rider will win it. Sagan winning it doesn’t contradict that assessment, it just means that he had nothing to lose and that was the only way he could win it. So he could gamble and did just that, then delivered a perfect sprint. Does that rectify wearing that jersey for a whole year? I don’t think so.
The biggest mistake in course design was the placement of the finish line that far from the only feature of the course where riders could make a difference. A truly disappointing race resulted where if you only tuned in for the last lap you would not have missed any action worth talking about.
Alaphilippe was the strongest rider in the race. Nobody could follow his move, and if he won we would have had a worthy WC despite an unworthy course.

Matthew September 25, 2017 at 12:23 pm

Given the location of the finish line, I think it’s even more surprising that the French team didn’t take Demare…even as another option/back-up option if they wanted Alaphilippe as the lead rider. Demare has proved he can win on long courses (San Remo) and in decent form this year. Saying that – top 10 was packed with similar riders that all had a good chance of a win.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Démare was tired and wanted to end his season, the same for Bouhanni who had some wins but apparently told selector Guimard that the Worlds would be too much. They had their chance last year but it slipped in the crosswinds.

Oscar Hellström September 25, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Your argument for Alaphilippe is flawed – none of the rider THAT TRIED could follow his move. Many elected not to try, likely because the finish wasn’t at the top.

Discussing who might have won if the course was different isn’t terribly meaningful as a different course would likely have changed the tactical dispositions for many of the riders.

Cd September 25, 2017 at 2:50 pm

Oscar, completely agree. And I think JA admitted as much by saying the strongest guy won. I was imperssed that he was wasn’t lamenting so much, didn’t blame the course or Moscon, and gave credit where credit is due. He gained a fan today.

MS September 26, 2017 at 9:23 am

Okay, if not relevant at least it seems natural to speculate about who would’ve won if the finish line was at the top (it could never have been, of course, that being in the middle of a residential area) – my speculation is that Sagan would’ve won. How you get from there to an assessment of who would be a worthy winner and who would not, however, is beyond me.

Steve September 27, 2017 at 9:25 pm

The technical word for what you’re discussing is the ‘sports conditional’, the speculative tense that describes what could have happened if the Dutch or English hadn’t missed in the penalty shootout/ Richie Porte hadn’t crashed/ PEDs hadn’t been invented. Fun, but irrelevant.

Gee September 25, 2017 at 11:39 am

For those who are still interested, CyclinghubTV has posted a video, shot from the helicopter, of the last 4km on Twitter.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2017 at 11:49 am
ZigaK September 25, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Sagan was in the top 5 the whole time, often closing the gaps.

ocaz September 25, 2017 at 11:47 am

Like Bilmo – think the loss of pictures added to it as we were in the dark (literally) what was happening before 1km flag so watching your screen for first rider to appear.

‘Sagan could play the percentages when others were chasing rainbows.’ – great line and it is true – Sagan can go on to win more World Championships with his unbelievable talent as he doesn’t need to take risks or launch attacks with limited chance of success. He knows even more so how to use his strengths best and may mean he might not be as exciting as he remained largely anonymous until it mattered.

Augie March September 25, 2017 at 12:58 pm

Matthews made the same mistake that cost him an Amstel title a couple of years back, chasing a move late in a race that came back together, and he might have won had he saved some energy from the sprint. And sadly Kristoff’s result was emblematic of his season: always up there but just can’t quite grasp the big victories.

I only tuned in for the last two laps, but don’t really think I missed much from all reports.

Richard S September 25, 2017 at 2:09 pm

I’d say if Matthews gets to the end of a race with Kristoff and Sagan then 9 times out of 10 he will come 3rd, and in the other 2nd. He’s become a good climber and a good time trialist but his sprint seems to have suffered. Maybe he needs to be the one who straps on a pair and makes a move otherwise there will always be someone a little stronger.

Augie March September 25, 2017 at 4:24 pm

Well he’s beaten Sagan on several occasions, see his TDF win last year for just one example. Sagan wins by brute strength a lot of the time, but I think Matthews should look more to guys like Kwaitkowski or Gilbert and his old rival Gerrans for examples of how to conserve energy until the final moments when it really counts, if you’re not the strongest you’ve got to be the smartest.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Well, Matthews beat Sagan to win a race like *three* times in his whole career (I mean, Sagan being fighting for the race in the finale, let’s say in the top 15 riders or so).
I don’t know if I’d call that “on several occasions” but the trend his indeed on Bling’s side: the three happened in the last three years with an impressive *once-a-year* ratio!
What a pity that the reverse has been happening like a dozen of times in the same three years and twenty times or so in their entire careers.

Don’t get me wrong, Matthews is without doubt a huge rider, but Sagan is just a different category (as he is when compared to the rest of the present peloton, and most of past ones).

Both Augie March and Richard S are right when pointing out that Matthews problem is probably finding a niche for his talent. He could be a Freire or Zabel type of rider, very fast with a decent climbing edge to shine in a classic Sanremo, perhaps less fast than them but with a significant pinch of added climbing skills – still quite far from Gilbert or Kwiatkowski, yet.

Bad luck that he got boxed in by several impressive riders getting the best of him in his different hunting grounds: on the fast side, Kristoff, who didn’t shine as much in his early year, suddenly raised to a very prominent position after 2013, and even if he’s been less convincing in the last couple of season, he’s still an impressive rival; Degenkolb might get back to his pre-accident level (let’s hope so) and would be a tough rival; Gaviria is looming over the next future, his potential not yet fully known.
On the other hand, some impressive “scattisti” from a previous generation stretched their career, think Gilbert himself or Valverde. Kwiatkowski raised the bar for the 1990 generation and, well, Alaphilippe is already here.
And I didn’t even name some *very good* riders who are equally up there, say, in the Ardennes, or in some Wordls, but whom Matthews might beat in *his* races, since they’re presently putting their main focus on something else: D. Martin, GVA, the Yates…

Then, as we were saying, there’s a guy named Peter Sagan, too.

We’re being treated to a nice stream of impressive talent in one-day racing, luckily for us and unluckily for Matthews, who will have to take some complicated decision (anyway, trying to change the format you’re clearly born for is always a risky affair in cycling).

Matthews is facing the same hard situation which reduced the winning potential of a lot of riders quite similar to him (that athletic profile looked like *the future* some years ago, the kind of young rider you’d select and protect), albeit obviously less talented than he his; the fast man who copes frankly well with climbs – or even better than the most – while still packing a fast finish: Swift, Colbrelli, Gallopin (on the “scattisti” side), Nizzolo himself (a little more on the “sprinter” side)… He’s more gifted than them, hence might have greater ambitions than the most common solution these guys opted for (stage hunting and top-10 placing in one-day races), but he must find it. All in all, he’s still young and could even just raise his level.

Bern Smith September 25, 2017 at 1:16 pm

Looked to me (with benefit of that helicopter video) that Sagan pulled the reduced bunch toward the leaders 2 or 3 times in the next to last kilometer. And as the final corners approached, when opportunity to get boxed in loomed, he escaped the boxes and placed himself exactly where he needed to be.

As frood pointed out ^^^: “strength, tactics and gamesmanship”, to which I would add “situational awareness”…

Mathews September 25, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Much as I’d love to think, as it seems others do, that Sagan timed his effort perfectly, biding his time on Salmon hill; Sagan said himself at that point he thought the race had gone.
He remained anonymous for most of the race but showed at just the right time to steal the win. Fortune or judgement; only Sagan will really know. Either way, 3 in 3, stuff of legend.

CA September 25, 2017 at 6:09 pm

Agreed, it’s impossible to say if the groups came together purely by coincidence or did Sagan and others earn the credit by instructing riders to chase.

However, as in cycling, almost always some of the win is due in part to element of luck and it’s up to the class of the rider to capitalise on it.

Once again, Sagan won a sprint against a very high quality field – Kristoff, Matthews, GVA, Swifty, Trentin, Gaviria, Gilbert, Alaphillipe, Kwiat, etc.

Struan September 25, 2017 at 2:01 pm

As much as last year’s race in Doha has been criticized, it was selective out in the desert when Belgium blew the race apart in the wind and then anybody’s race to win in the front group on the final lap. It shows you don’t need hills to make a selection. Other criticism warranted for sure.

Shawn Kaplan September 25, 2017 at 2:17 pm

I kept wondering mid-race why no team was trying to make it harder. Perhaps the course didn’t lend itself well to doing so but the riders make the race. Belgium in particular comes to mind. Using Wellens to mark the break was conservative tactics. Why not use the team to soften everyone up for an attack towards the end?

On a separate note, it would have been good to see Moscon disqualified during the race. The jury had the footage available long before the finale. He could have altered the final results significantly (had he been stronger). Do they ever kick riders out mid-race for similar cheating?

The Inner Ring September 25, 2017 at 2:19 pm

Teams were probably waiting for other teams to take up the race, a stand-off.

Riders can be ejected mid-race, Brambilla and Rovny from the Vuelta for example, but don’t always imagine the jury are busy scanning social media. Besides there’s a process to follow: was the video certainly of Moscon, could he be ID’d for sure, had he confessed etc?

E_Pi September 25, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Boardman commented on the ‘sticky bottle’ in real time, trial by social media shouldn’t have been necessary here. I wonder what would have happened had Moscon won, or if Thomas had won in the Olympics after some serious drafting etc.

madblack September 25, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Amazing Dave McKenzie called him out live on air in Oz, too! Only imagine the fall out if he’d gone on to win.

Vitus September 25, 2017 at 7:36 pm

Right, this wasn’t a social media coverage appearing afterwards thing. It was live in everyone’s TV. And when Moscon appeared on the front wit Ala later, I thought, wait, this guy wasn’t he dropped a while ago and drafted by his motorized bottle, why is he still in the race? I just assumed too relent commisaires., like when Lutsenko got a prominent far out of red carpet extra push as first rider in the ITT and nothing happened.

Ecky Thump September 25, 2017 at 10:13 pm

On the teams thing, I though that there’s be an ‘anti-Sagan’ plan too.
Be it a national team or even a WT team by proxy.
But everyone was possibly waiting for the Belgians and, in the end, it looked like they ran out of legs.
If that was the case, of all the riders, of all of the courses, they were asking for trouble with Sagan being allowed to lurk….

Frank September 25, 2017 at 2:28 pm

Are the team sizes reducing next year? That would be in keeping with the TdF and would encourage a more broken race, there was probably too much control from the big nations. A long race should extenuate the differences between the riders but not enough with a horde of domestiques working for what is really an individual honour rather than a team goal.

MartyMcC September 26, 2017 at 2:49 am

For the past three years Slovakia were among the smallest teams number-wise (although the 6 they had this year was more than the 3 or so of some previous editions) and that didn’t stop Sagan winning.

Anonymous September 26, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Sagan still wouldn’t have won if, say, France didn’t chase down the Wellens group.

Vitus September 26, 2017 at 5:09 pm

That’s true, but Sagan profits when big teams do the chasing work.

Joe K. September 25, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Peter “The Great” is strong when it counts with a winner’s racing sense of timing that Matthews just can’t seem to find with both hands untied. Sagan makes it look easy. In the words of Captain America, he can do this all day long!

CA September 25, 2017 at 4:26 pm

I am just curious, what are the perceived benefits of making men and women race on equal courses/distances? I didn’t realise this was being considered for next year.

The Inner Ring September 25, 2017 at 4:27 pm

It’s not so much the equal distances as some equivalence in the spectacle, eg only the pro men got to ride up Mount Fløyen and this made the finish compelling.

CA September 25, 2017 at 5:05 pm

Ah, on that front, I completely agree. I was hoping the focus would be on equalising the spectacle, but not forcing the women’s peloton to do the same distance/difficulty level.

Women’s racing should definitely be given the opportunity to tell a story of conquering the same obstacles of the men’s race. And, I think it should be done in a way that makes the reporting of the men’s/women’s race fit together. If done properly it has the potential to strengthen the entire sport.

Steve September 26, 2017 at 8:19 pm

Why shouldn’t they do the same distance?

AP September 26, 2017 at 9:31 pm

It’d be a long day.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 10:38 pm

@AP
It’s a complicated question (further lack of homogeneity in the female peloton when compared to the male one, possible difference to the rest of races if you don’t adapt all them, need to get there progressively…), but thinking that about one more hour out of seven would in itself make for an especially “long day” is not very convincing. 6h30′ for the men is okay and 7h30′ would be “too much” in the women’s case? Just +15% is seriously the reason?
Then, make them equal on approximate duration: the women could do 240 km instead of the current 150… and their race would last as the men’s did.
And if we want identical courses, a well-designed 250 km course could grant a reasonable duration for both races.
However, I’m aware of the underlying problems in making things equal when conditions aren’t at all (long races mean more training, hard to ask to everyone when you aren’t paid and also need to work or so…). For example, the women race would be probably faster with bigger teams, but even big Feds – the Aussies! – are currently trying to avoid sending all the athletes they’re qualified to, let alone forming a bigger team; and we recently discovered what UK did in past years. The process must be carried out on different levels.

I’m not defending the idea of starting right now to race on an identical course… but sure the problem isn’t merely the difference in speed and the consequent increase in duration.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 10:39 pm

And let me add that the women cycling movement should decide that, anyway.

CA September 26, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Steve – I’m not trying to be sexist or chauvinist or anything. Merely practical. The long-term goal could be that the races are equal, but it would have to be a gradual thing. My point is that in 2017 the men’s peloton is physically stronger than the women’s (eg. men’s world’s race had FASTER average speed, even though they went 110+ more kilometres), and adding that extra distance to the women’s races immediately for 2018 would have negative effects on the women’s peloton.

But, the distance of the races isn’t the real or relevant issue. Any decision to change distances for women’s peloton needs to be considered in light of what would be best to grow their sport. By grow, I mean improve the marketability of the events, which in turn increases revenue for organisers, teams, salaries for riders and sponsorship opportunities, etc. That is the goal. It might not be fair, but right now, in 2017 sponsors and organisers want to spend more money on the men’s peloton than the women’s. Therefore, the powers that be on the women’s side need to say to themselves, “what do we do to make our sport better to watch?” And watching them try to compete over 267km would be brutal. It would be cruel and really awkward to sit through, plus it would be really slow at the end, no exciting sprints or anything.

Frank Delatorre September 25, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Wan’t Bettiol simply working for Trentin? He is not an experienced last-man so he did not realize that Trentin lost some positions in the second to the last curve and thus he should have left Kristoff into the wind much earlier.

PS: love the reference to the Rheinfelden stage. My favorite among the 101 Sagan wins (Please note it is 2016, not 2015)

The Inner Ring September 25, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Fixed the 2015/6 for Sagan’s win. The video is long to watch but it is one of those that passes the DVD test, or at least here, and even if you know the result the manner of the win is something it seems only Sagan can do.

Frank Delatorre September 25, 2017 at 5:57 pm

Certainly not a GIF win and a “DVD” I like to play from time o time. I also enjoy the commentators amusement in watching Sagan’s moves.

For those who don’t know the race, I suggest watching from time 10:40 :”The world champion cannot come across this gap on his own!” 😀

BC September 25, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Enid Blyton report:

Generally dull race. Too many Moto’s around on a closed circuit. Good crowds. Excellent and worthy winner saved the event from tedium.

Adam Bowie September 25, 2017 at 5:59 pm

I don’t know about too many motos, but they were getting too close to the riders in places, and definitely giving assistance. On the BBC commentary, Chris Boardman rightly called them out several times. But that’s a common problem at quite a few races. I always feel that only the France Televisions pilots seem to really get this mostly right.

Pete September 25, 2017 at 6:06 pm

Kristoff better not be seen eating in public again! Oh the shame of it! LOL

John September 25, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Not sure if Peter saw it forming or not. But he stays a bit right and behind of AK’s wheel as if he was anticipating AK’s sprint moving to the right, and right in front of Peter. Then it was classic draft>slingshot>leg speed>bike toss. The number of things that went his way surprised Peter as much as anyone else.
Great job Norway!

Anonymous September 25, 2017 at 10:03 pm

The whole of the Italian team should be DQd. It’s the team car helping the rider cheat. The only way teams will stop this is if the penalty is more severe. Moscon up front means Trentin can sit tight. The team doesn’t care if it’s filmed. They burn up one for the greater good of the team.

Kjetil September 26, 2017 at 3:33 pm

How about giving ITA the last number in the caravan in ’18?

Neuron1 September 27, 2017 at 10:01 pm

My mind harkens back to a crisp day in February, a famous race was running called Omloop Het Neiuwsblad. The leading group consisting of the eventual winner Greg Van Avermaet, the reigning world champion Peter Sagan and Sep Vanmarke decided, against the explicitly stated rules and to ride on the “pavement” or “side-walk” depending on where you reside. Thus they avoided the cobbles. The purpose of riding the cobbles is that they require a high power to maintain speed and the repeated bumping induces fatigue. In fact, it is estimated by ProCyclist magazine that riding the cobbles requires up to one-third more power to maintain speed. The rest of the peloton was forced onto the cobbles and were not able to effectively counter attack due to the “penalty” they incurred. None of the final podium were sanctioned for the misdeeds, and in fact blatantly profited from them. Why were they not removed from the race or their results not nullified: because of who they are. The rationalizations from the race commissars were laughable. There was a similar incident involving a train crossing with no sanctions. Should Bora, BMC and Cannondale be tossed for the remainder of the classics season? The rules need to be enforced consistently for them to mean anything.

SilverSurfer8 September 25, 2017 at 11:44 pm

One thing that amuses me about Sagan’s win was how some riders whined that he was invisible all day. He has become such a marked man, he has to be creative, to avoid negative racing tactics. His strategy worked brilliantly, which is another thing I liked-he seems to be racing smarter now. How many races has he lost, while being considered the strongest rider? Seems like a lot. Why? Tactics. In this race, he maybe wasn’t the strongest, but he found a way to win, by racing smarter. That’s got to be sweet revenge!

noel September 26, 2017 at 9:11 am

so was the ‘sickness’ an elaborate game to gain him this space?
assuming it was genuine, it might actually have helped him also, in that who’s to say a firing-on-all-cylinders Sagan wouldn’t have been keen to see Allaphillipe and Moscon disappear up the road, causing him to waste bullets chasing them down… as it was his only option was to sit tight and hope… bingo!

Jeff September 26, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Agreed. I’ve heard a lot of sour grapes moaning from riders in the news since the WC about how Sagan was hidden all day, or how he was joking in the peloton, and/or staying relaxed (Kwiato actually praised Sagan for staying relaxed all day – thankful that Kwiato recognizes smart tactics when he sees them).

However, these same riders fail to mention that Sagan was at the front for the closing kilometers and chased a few moves, keeping the pack together. His racing and tactics were superb on Sunday. He stayed calm and relaxed during the long buildup, he gambled that Alaphillipe’s move wasn’t the right one, closed down a few moves in the closing kms, kept himself from getting boxed in, and found the right wheel in the finale. It was a masterclass from him even if it wasn’t a long range solo rampage. Sagan absolutely lit up MSR, but in the end lost by a hair. I’d say that the result demonstrates that the 2017 WC was tactically an improvement.

Thanks to INRNG for the rheinfelden stage! Looking forward to watching.

Fourlegs September 26, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Jeff, how do you know what he did in the last few kms? There was no TV coverage and the on course TV commentators did not even know whether he was still in the leading bunch.

Vitus September 27, 2017 at 2:11 am

The heli shots were published later https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrqKoyZGQts

SilverSurfer8 September 28, 2017 at 5:08 am

I’ve been rewatching the heli footage repeatedly! It’s like unravelling a mystery! Sagan was freakin’ brilliant. Nobody else there had the legs to do what he did in the lead up to the sprint. Chapeau 3-Peter!

Lanterne_Verte September 26, 2017 at 11:21 am

Interesting to see Zakarin having a dig towards the end, a flash forward to Innsbruck next year perhaps. One of the things I love about the world champs is the select few that are there in the finale is often so diverse in terms of physical type and racing style, something very graceful and impressive about that, similar to MSR and the final week of a GT, road racing pared down to its purest essence.

AK September 26, 2017 at 2:39 pm

I don’t really understand all the complaining that it wasn’t selective enough. There are no duds in the top 10. And don’t forget a lot of the selection was done far before the start of the race. All the pure sprinters were at home. It takes much bigger hills to get rid of allrounders and classic specialists like Sagan, Kristoff, Matthews. We will see those hills next year. Putting a steep climb close to the finish will just change the winner. It won’t change the fact that riders will wait until the very end to place their move. That is simply the most rewarding tactic. See Fleche Wallonne for an example.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 3:23 pm

Selection might be produced by the course per se or by the way it’s being raced. Not any course should produce “authomatic” selection (I prefer the other way around), but you shouldn’t forget that not any course allows a selective type of racing, either.
What some doubt is if this course – on dry racing conditions – would *ever* produce satisfactory racing, given that, as you say, it was way too clear that the most rewarding tactic was to wait.
Hence, the lack of previous action.
If, at least, it’s not that clear that actions will be brought back, well, people will try something serious. Maybe it won’t work, but they’ll try harder. And, even more important, *more* guys will try, thus making the action itself more meaningful.

I don’t blame too much the course because when they draw it they probably expected (and it was reasonable) hard weather. It would have been a game changer, and it was, on paper, a relatively safe bet: but, hey, bad luck. Just as Doha had relatively good luck (wind is common but perhaps even a little less so than rain in Bergen!).

Drawing a good course it’s not about throwing in more climbs, steeper climbs or some climb nearer to the finish line. It’s a complex combination of factors (for example, I’d have placed the Innsbruck wall during the penultimate lap, not the last one…).

And, yeah, what’s “the most rewarding tactic” depends on many things (training style, racing style, teams) but the course isn’t the least meaningful element of them all. You can see, for example, how the Giro di Lombardia racing style recently went changing a lot as you changed the course year by year (same race, same importance, same historical period, very similar riders and teams…). Or you can check how both the racing and the final results changed in Sanremo just adding a little climb some 100 kms away from the line: it didn’t work *always*, but the shape of the race became different more often than not. Obviously, the course must adapt to racing evolution (or you’ll end up like the Liège).

My problem with the course is that from 2010 on we’ve got too many of them which were just shades of the same colour (albeit, yeah, different shades, as I said): Ponferrada, Richmond, Bergen, perhaps even Geelong. And two of the others were for sprinters! More creativity, please 🙂

Richard S September 26, 2017 at 3:37 pm

I think a problem with this course was how twisty the closing couple of kilometres were. I think that prevented someone having a flyer whilst everyone else looks at themselves kind of like Freire’s first win, or Ballan’s.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 6:08 pm

I don’t know if it was about the twisty design, but I agree that it’s interesting when such a solution can materialise. I must say that’s one of my favourite finale for this kind of race, it even got identified with a specific kind of rider (“finisseur”), but apparently it’s becoming less common – I’ll admit this is a kind of “laudator temporis acti” impression, I didn’t check any stats and maybe I’m simply wrong.
I’m thinking about Tchmil’s Sanremo (or Pozzato’s, or Cancellara’s: 3 out of 10 editions from 1999 to 2008, then nothing) or, well, the very recent Paris-Tours triumph by Gaviria. Cancellara was obviously a specialist (Compiegne is memorable).
In recent years Moreno Moser had shown some prowess in this sense – in minor races – but he’s always having problems to consistently keep a high level – probably (a lost talent?). Vino used to attack from further, 3-5 kms to the line, and then get rid of any company in the last km with “long sprints”.

Richard S September 26, 2017 at 3:30 pm

If you rate how good a sportsman is by the effect their absence has on their team then Alejandro Valverde could be argued to be the best/most important cyclist in the world right now. With him Movistar have fairly well dominated the teams classification at the Tour, Vuelta and in the UCI World Tour over the last few years, as well as all the wins and places he has picked up for himself along the way too. Spain have relied on him to be on the podium at the Worlds pretty much permanently for about 13 years (exaggeration). Without him Movistar were nowhere to be seen at both the Tour and the Vuelta, and Spains best finisher here at the Worlds was Jonathan Castroviejo all the way down in 31st place and over a minute down on the front group. It goes to show just how effective and consistent Valverde is that without him his teams are a bit rudderless. It may also show just how much they are built around him. You’d think that course would have allowed JJ Rojas a decent chance of coming 4th, or Luis Leon Sanchez to be up with Alaphilippe and Moscon.

will59 September 26, 2017 at 7:40 pm

One possibility that seems to be missing on a course like this is the long break away, which enlivens many one-day races. Having to climb Salmon Hill so many times nullifies the chance for a group to get away early and throw a wrench into the strategic works. It just seemed inevitable that nothing would happen until the last climb.

gabriele September 26, 2017 at 9:05 pm

Long (meaningful) breaks are more about stages in stage races than one-day races.
The Worlds are indeed quite similar to your *classic* Classics from that POV, and the last ones were no exception.

Yeah, it can happen once every many years that you end up getting half a chance with a long-shot-break, and, anyway, however minimal their odds might be, somebody gets usually out there to show up their face or sponsor/national jersey but, all in all, it’s just a strategig – not tactic – factor… precisely as it was in these male pro Worlds.

Roubaix might be just a bit different, with three winning morning break in 15 years or so, but in most Classics you need to go back a quarter of a century or so to find an effective long breakaway.

Aiden September 28, 2017 at 11:36 am

Very interesting read, thanks a lot!

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