Cobblestone classics legend Tom Boonen said after the Tour of Flanders that Peter Sagan should “keep his mouth shut” about complaints of a lack of cooperation from other riders.
The three-time World Champion gave his definitive response in Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. He shut everyone’s mouth in the peloton, riding away from a select group of rivals a full 53 kilometers from the finish line on the bank oval in the velodrome.
Nobody had an answer to his bold attack — including every member of the Quickstep Wolfpack. Flanders winner Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar were all caught out as Sagan’s gap grew to over a minute before they were able to cut it back to 45 seconds.
It’s was a dominating and masterful victory that showcased Sagan’s intuitive feel for the right moment to attack. While Gilbert and Van Avermaet made probing attacks, no one was willing to go all-in and commit from such a distance. Sagan noted this stop-and-go rhythm and decided it would work to his advantage. And with that insight he was gone, not to be seen again.
The Bora-Hansgrohe star picked up the four rider breakaways group led by Sylvan Diller (AG2R) and eventually only Diller was able to hang on Sagan’s wheel. They would enter the velodrome together, with the World Champion perfectly positioned behind Diller’s rear wheel. Against a top sprinter like Sagan, the result was a foregone conclusion.
Sagan gave Boonen his reply, an aggressive and confident attack from long range that brought back memories of Boonen’s own victory in the 2012 edition of the Hell of the North. It was a power move that would have impressed Fabian Cancellara.
This time there would be no complaints about a lack of cooperation as Sagan’s two legs were all the support he required.