The list of things that Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) hasn't won just got a little smaller after the triple world champion added Paris-Roubaix to the races that he's conquered with a long-range 53-kilometre attack. Afterwards, Sagan described the victory over AG2R La Mondiale's Silvan Dillier as an amazing feeling.
Despite his bulging palmarès, Paris-Roubaix is only Sagan's second-ever Monument title after he won the 2016 Tour of Flanders solo after attacking with just over 20 kilometres to go. In the build-up to the event, his 'lack of' Monument titles was highlighted time and again and in his post-race press conference he was asked if it was a relief to double his tally. Sagan, never one to consider things that have not come to pass, said that while he'd dreamed of winning Paris-Roubaix, it wasn't something he’d be willing to relent a world title for.
"When I was younger it was always my dream to win Paris Roubaix first, World Championships and Flanders," Sagan told the press with his now customary ski goggles around his neck. "I can say now if someone asks me if I will change my world titles for Flanders and Roubaix I would not. It is something more. Now, I have won Flanders and Roubaix and it is an amazing feeling. It is very nice."
Throughout the Classics campaign, Sagan has looked strong but not in the superlative form that is usually attributed to him. He won Gent-Wevelgem but finished sixth at Milan-San Remo and the same at the Tour of Flanders. At times, he appeared frustrated and lamented the lack of cooperation in the fight against Quick-Step Floors. On the sector of pavé from Auchy to Bersée, Sagan decided to take the matter into his own hands and benefit from what he believed had hindered him in previous races, lack of co-operation.
"They started to attack a lot of times and it was always gas and then stop and then gas and then stop and I was thinking where are we going with this," Sagan said. "I wanted to break away alone, and I decided that this was the moment to do it and it was a good decision. In the end, it was a tailwind almost all the time, some pieces had crosswind but it wasn't really strong.
"I said if there were five or six riders behind then they would not work together. It was better to go constant and in one tempo and they would have to come to me and if they did then it was OK and if they didn't then it was also ok. It happened like that and I was happy for that because the guys behind me were fighting each other, attacking, and I was costing them a lot of energy."
He noted that a lack of bad luck had also played a factor: "It was just a good moment and I am very glad that this first Paris-Roubaix that I won. I had very good luck. I never had a puncture and I was never involved in a crash like I was before in other years. I am very happy."
Respect for Boonen and never underestimate your rivals
Following his comments at the end of the Tour of Flanders, former Flanders and Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen said that the world champion should 'keep his mouth shut' as he had been doing much the same. Sagan responded to the comments in his own way with a picture of Boonen congratulating him after his first World Championship victory and captioned it with a heart. Sagan did not want to say anything against Boonen but defended his own remarks.
"I was talking about if you don't work together then Quick-Step are going to win. I was not complaining I was just saying what was true. Like, wake up guys," he said. "For Tom Boonen, I have lots of respect and I watched him when I was little and for these races, he was the big idol and big rider. I can't say anything against him, I just have respect."
Sagan was also sure to give a certain amount of respect to Dillier, who was the last man standing from the day's early breakaway. Given what he's done in his career, most would assume that Sagan had the win in the bag. However, the 28-year-old said did not want to doubt his credentials.
"For me, with my experience, I always think that it is better not to undervalue someone," he said. "In the end, I asked him if we are going together and he said that I will work with you. We worked together and I was pulling more in the cobblestone sectors, and in the end, I was also finished in the end.
"It was impossible to drop him in the cobblestone sectors. After that, I was confident that I could do a good sprint but I was also cramping in the end, but I did it. I am very happy for that. It is a big victory for me and a very nice moment for me."
A word on Goolaerts
For all the pomp and ceremony at the finish, there was a subdued feeling too after a crash suffered by the Veranda's Willems-Crelan rider Michael Goolaerts. The 22-year-old Belgian suffered a cardiac arrest and was airlifted to hospital in Lille. Sagan said that he had found out about the incident after the race.
"I heard about it and I am very sorry for him. I hope that he can get better," said Sagan before asking if there was any more information on the young rider's condition.