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Sept 27, 2015 – Slovakia’s Peter Sagan charged ahead over the final climbs and hung on at the finish to win Sunday’s men’s road race at the World Road Cycling Championships. The 25-year-old completed the 261.4km (162.4 mile) course in 6hrs 14mins 37secs to defeat Australian Michael Matthews by three seconds with Lithuania’s Ramunas Navardauskas third, also in 6:14:37.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

“I think it’s the biggest victory,” Sagan said. “I’m very happy. It’s unbelievable for me. I’m very happy for this.” Sagan, who won this year’s Tour of California, and the points competition at the Tour de France, was considered a favorite because his skill on short, steep climbs with sprint speed fit perfectly with the Richmond city street course.

“There was big motivation for me to win,” Sagan said. On a cool day when predicted rain barely fell, Sagan was barely mentioned among those at the front until it mattered most.

“I did just one attack,” Sagan said. “But I think it was the right attack.”

Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski, the 2014 winner, was among seven riders who surged ahead with 32km remaining, joined by Belgian Tom Boonen, Italy’s Elia Viviani, Dutchman Bauke Mollema, Britain’s Ian Stannard, Spain’s Daniel Moreno and Costa Rica’s Andrey Amador in the breakaway.

Germany, Australia and US riders tried to pull the peloton forward, but teammates of the leaders slowed the pack and rivals struggled to respond. With 16km remaining, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and Portugal’s Nelson Oliveira led surges but both were swallowed by the peloton. American Tyler Farrar and Kanstantsin Siutsou of Belarus tried again with 10km remaining but an Italian-led peloton chased them down just before the narrow, winding Libby Hill cobblestone climb, where a French attack failed.

Sagan and Belgian Greg Van Avermaet charged up the final cobblestone climb at 23rd Street and from there Sagan surged to the front and kept the lead to the finish line. “It was very strange,” he said. “I was waiting, waiting. I was a little bit also in the crazy. Everybody had to be tired. I gave all the enegry I had. I was hoping for the last cobblestone line and from there it was just gas it to the finish.”

Sagan tossed his helmet into the crowd in the euphoric moments after his victory. Matthews charged but came up just short in trying to become the first Aussie to win the road race since Cadel Evans in 2009. Aussie teammate Simon Gerrans, second last year, finished sixth. Kwiatkowski, who before the race announced a jump from Etixx Quick Step to Team Sky for next season, finished eighth.

Not since Italy’s Paolo Bettini in 2007 has a rider repeated as world road race winner. Norway’s Alexander Kristoff, who has 20 wins this year and took a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics road race, placed fourth.

Final kilometers of World Championships RR

Results Elite Men’s Worlds RR:
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia)
2. Michael Matthews (Australia)
3. Ramunas Navardauskas (Lithuania)
4. Alexander Kristoff (Norway
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spain)
6. Simon Gerrans (Australia)
7. Tony Gallopin (France)
8. Michel Kwiatkowski (Poland)
9. Rui Costa (Portugal)
10. Philippe Gilbert (Belgium)