Sometimes in this business, you try too hard. You seek the interesting alternative when the answer is hiding in plain sight; the each-way bet when an odds-on favourite has attracted the punters’ money with good reason.
Peter Sagan. Of course, Peter Sagan.
Kristoff, I thought, with an hour still left to run. Who better to muster a killer sprint after more than 250km of racing? Elia Viviani, maybe, with the Italians playing a smart game and being well represented in the 26-man break. Tom Boonen, for all the Belgian team’s hard work smashing the race to pieces in the desert crosswinds, would surely struggle to overcome the other pure sprinters in the final mix.
Cavendish, then? What better way to round off a spectacularly good year by the comeback kid? He’s got it. He’s got more than enough of it. This is the perfect scenario for the Manxman.
And how about Niki Terpstra? If Fernando Gaviria’s blistering acceleration caught the sprinters napping at Paris-Tours, perhaps the Dutchman could take a leaf from the Colombian’s book – hit them early, but hit them hard.
In the end, it was Terpstra’s compatriot Tom Leezer who took a flyer, but way too soon. The Belgians reeled him in before the Italians took over at the head of affairs briefly. And then, every man for himself.
Boonen, straight up the middle. Cavendish, briefly stalling to get round Michael Matthews before going again. And Sagan, with all the room in the world and, seemingly, all the time in the world, going from the barriers to the centre of the road with one majestic surge to win by a length.
Cavendish went the wrong way and was baulked, he said. Kristoff was stitched up by his team-mate Edwald Boasson-Hagen going rogue and sprinting for himself, the Norwegian moaned. The Germans had a complete disaster of a day all round. Boonen didn’t have the legs.
But for all the team-mates in the world, all the split-second decision-making, all the training and preparation and adjustments to racing in searing heat and swirling crosswinds, it was the best man on the day who won. Indeed, the best man of the year.
Peter Sagan: simply the best.
What a shame only a handful of people were there to witness it…
Curse? What curse? Peter Sagan reflects on his season in the rainbow jersey in Rouleur issue 66.