Sagan outsmarts Viviani in Gent Wevelgem

Sagan beats Viviani, Viviani beats bars.

Has you ever seen a grown man pound his handlebars so violently this many times?

Elia Viviani (Quickstep Floors) tried to break his bars with his right hand after narrowly losing a sprint to World Champion Peter Sagan in Gent Wevelgem.

Sagan made the decision to come off the wheel of Jasper Stuyven (Trek Segafredo) while Viviani preferred to launch off the wheel of Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ).

The Slovenian made the correct decision while the Italian was boxed in by circumstance until it was too late.

“First Démare passes. I close my eyes and I pass him too along the barrier but just missed the two seconds when Sagan goes on the left. When Démare opened the door, I could go straight to the line. By that time Sagan already had ten meters. You can’t do a mistake against the world champion,” said Viviani.

Yes, ten meters, margin of victory, difference between a big grin and a savage attempt to snap a set of expensive handlebars. Viviani has been off to a fast and successful start to the season but Sagan had the better instincts today.

“I’m disappointed because it was a chance to win one of my career goals. I missed it. For sure we come back but today we lost to the world champion,” said Viviani.

For his part, Sagan had his own oddball philosophical take on the race. “I was concentrated, yes, but if you don’t feel good, what can you do? It’s about your legs, not just about your head. A lot of times it’s happened to me that in Harelbeke I was bad and in Gent I was good.”

Good enough to reconfirm that with the Tour of Flanders just a week away, the bookies can feel confident in the odds of a Sagan victory.

Timing is everything in a sprint and knowing when to go early or late often decides who’s great and who’s just occasionally lucky. “Of all the Gent-Wevelgem races I’ve done before, this was the easiest one with weather conditions and everything,” Sagan said. “It was a little bit stressed but not crazy like in the last years. The sprint is always a little bit like a lottery. I just decided to start a little bit early and in the end it was very good, I had the legs to hold this sprint.”

The Tour of Flanders takes place on April Fool’s day. Somehow that seems ironic and perfect for an immensely talented superstar like Sagan. There’s no question he’ll put on a show and based on his performance in Gent Wevelgem, that show might just be the winning one.

No pounding for the bars for the man in the rainbow jersey.

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