Zdenek Stybar's powerful attack on the cobbled climb through Libby Hill Park at the end of the elite men's 260km race had the makings of a winning move but in the end it came up short. He was caught by the frantic chase from behind that set up Peter Sagan's winning attack on the steep 23rd Street climb, and the Slovakian crossed the finish line with a solo victory to claim his first world title.
"I think I gave everything and I think we had a very good and motivated team, and I think today didn't work out but that's how it is," Stybar said. "[Sagan] definitely deserved the win. Now he makes his palmares complete. I think he was really peaking for this because he was very strong, especially on the steep climb - he was very strong."
Stybar came to the UCI Road World Championships as an outside favourite given his Classics experience and cagey cyclo-cross skills suited to the technical urban circuit that included cobbled climbs through Libby Hill Park and up 23rd Street. With the head of the field together at the bottom of Libby Hill Park on the last lap, with four kilometres to go, Stybar launched the first move over the cobbles.
He was followed by John Degenkolb (Germany) and Belgium's Greg Van Avermaet, and a select group emerged over the top that also included Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), but they were caught by the base of the 19 per cent 23rd Street climb.
"I just wanted to go there on the climb because I was there alone from my team," Stybar said. "I thought, 'OK, if we make a little selection or if I could do a little selection then it would be easier to make something in the final' but it was just done directly and there was nothing left to do any differently anymore on the last climb."
Sagan jumped out of the field over 23rd Street, moving in to a tuck position on the descent to gain the handful of seconds he needed as he raced into the third and final climb up Governor Street on the way to the finish line on Broad.
"It was just [after] the attack that I did," Stybar said. "When I went, I had lost some positions, and then when he went on the steep climb I was a bit too far back."
When asked if he knew that Sagan's move was the winning one, Stybar said, "You could see that everyone was underneath and when he went I could feel that it would be really difficult to close the gap. It was the only possible thing to do."