The question of if – or rather, when – Peter Sagan will win a Monument can now be laid to rest after the Tinkoff rider, who last week took his first win in the rainbow jersey at Gent-Wevelgem, won the 100th edition of the Tour de Flanders with a fine solo victory.
Fabian Cancellara of Trek-Segafredo, looking for a record fourth victory in his final participation in the race, was second some 22 seconds behind Sagan, with LottoNL-Jumbo’s Sep Vanmarcke just behind to complete the podium.
Sagan and Vanmarcke, who had both attacked with Team Sky's Michal Kwiatkowski, had led a splintered field up the day’s penultimate climb, the Oude Kwaremont, but behind them Cancellara set off to lead the chase.
He was joined before the final climb, the Paterberg, by Etixx-Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra, Movistar’s Imanol Erviti and Dimitri Claeys of Wanty-Gobert, the Belgian Professional Continental team riding its first race since the death of Antoine Demoitié after a crash at Gent Wevelgem last Sunday.
Coming over the top of the climb, Sagan had dropped Vanmarkce, who had now been joined by Cancellara.
The pair chipped into his advantage, bringing it down to 12 seconds at one point, but it stood at 15 seconds as the Slovak rider passed under the 5 kilometres to go banner and Sagan then began to extend it further.
The pace of racing had been frenetic from the start and there was a series of big crashes, one with a little more than 100 kilometres remaining taking out most of the BMC Racing team.
Among those to come down was one of the pre-race favourites, Greg Van Avermaet, the Belgian in tears as he received medical treatment at the roadside and abandoned the race.
An earlier crash also put paid to the hopes of the man who last month sprang a surprise win in the opening Monument of the season at Milan-San Remo, FDJ.fr’s Arnaud Demare.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.