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A New King of Flanders

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Apr 3, 2016 – Peter Sagan won the Tour of Flanders on Sunday and dedicated his victory to Belgian cyclists Antoine Demoitie and Daan Myngheer, who died last week. Sagan timed his attack to perfection, breaking away on the final climb of the race just over 13km from the end of the gruelling 255km trek from Bruges to Oudenaarde.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

After 6hr 10min in the saddle, and beating three-time winner Fabian Cancellara into second, with Belgian Sep Vanmarcke third, it was Demoitie and Myngheer who occupied Sagan’s thoughts.

“I feel very good, I’m very happy — it was a super hard race from the start until the finish, always full gas,” said the winner, who revealed he had some troubles during the race.

“I had a little bit of a problem after 100km, I had to change both wheels because I had a broken wheel. There were a lot of crashes, thanks to all my (Tinkoff) team who did a great job. I have to think also about the two guys who died last week, it was very sad: I want to dedicate this to them.”

Demoitie died after being hit by a motorcycle during last Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem cobbled classic, which Sagan won, while Myngheer suffered a heart attack during the Criterium International in Corsica and died on Monday in hospital.

Sagan made his winning move around 30km from the end as he followed an attack by the man he deposed as world champion, Poland’s Michal Kwiatkowski. Cancellara, who was chasing a record fourth victory in his final season as a cyclist, missed that move and by the time they reached the penultimate climb, the Kwaremont, inside the final 20km, he had 30-seconds to make up.

Sagan and Vanmarcke broke away from an eight-man leading group on that climb as Switzerland’s Cancellara blasted clear of the chasers behind.

On the final Paterberg climb, Sagan made his winning attack as Vanmarcke couldn’t respond. At the top of the Paterberg, with 13km left, Sagan had an 18-second lead on Cancellara, who had caught Belgian Vanmarcke. It was a two-on-one race to the finish but Sagan, the amiable 26-year-old Slovak, had the strength to hold off the chasers.

Sagan said he would be celebrating his first victory in a ‘Monument’ race before turning his attentions to next week’s Paris-Roubaix classic, the ‘Hell of the North’.

“Now I want to have fun after this big week and next week we will think about next week, not now! The race was very hard today, it’s very hard to work with other guys because nobody wants to work with me. It’s always better to drop everybody.”

Cancellara, who had joked before the race that he would ask for Belgian nationality if he became the first ever four-time champion, admitted the better man had won. “Second is not first and it’s not history. I didn’t win,” he said with a sigh. “Second was still a big thing.

I was quite emotional this morning and I still am now. “After so many tries, finishing second is not bad. I aimed for history but Peter showed today he managed things well: he’s a deserved winner,” said the 35-year-old. “I was coordinating with Sep, I came as close as possible but as I always say, I’m not superman.

“I gave my maximum but I missed this one second (when Kwiatkowski and Sagan attacked). Maybe I’m a little disappointed, it is how it is — thank you Flanders.”

Final Kilometers of the Tour of Flanders

1. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff
2. Fabian Cancellara (Sui) Trek-Segafredo
3. Sep Vanmarcke (Bel) Lotto Soudal
4. Alexander Kristoff (Nor) Katusha
5. Luke Rowe (GBr) Team Sky
6. Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Cannondale Pro Cycling
7. Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa) Movistar
8. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-quickStep
9. Dimitri Claeys (Bel) Wanty – Groupe Gobert
10. Niki Terpstra (Ned) Etixx-QuickStep