After a year of being repeatedly questioned by his trade team manager Oleg Tinkov, being crashed by a race vehicle in the Vuelta a Espana and having to drop out of the race prematurely, Peter Sagan finally had the moment he's been waiting for his entire career - pulling on the rainbow jersey.
Sagan's victory in the UCI Road World Championship elite men's road race came just days after he deflected talk of race-favourite status, calling such speculation "a waste of time", and noting that the champions in the last years have never been pre-race favourites.
Without that label on his head, Sagan sat hidden in the peloton, letting such big names as Tom Boonen, Elia Viviani, and even defending champion Michal Kwiatkowski pop off the front knowing all the while that if the race came back together he had one place to make his move.
"In the last two laps there were difficult moments. All the champions were moving, attacking the front, and I said, no. It's just for the last lap will be the moment. I waited in the group to see what would happen," Sagan explained after the race. "On the last cobblestone climb I said I will try."
A gap of a few metres at the top on Belgian Greg Van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway) was stretched to a hundred on the rapid descent from the 23rd Street climb, but Sagan blasted through two quick turns so quickly that he opened up half a dozen seconds on the chasers.
"Once I was alone I said, 'I have to go full gas,'" Sagan said. "It was very strange. Everything happened very fast. Boom, boom, boom and I am here."
Sagan declined to discuss his string of second places that led up to the biggest win of his career, or the incident with the race support moto that knocked him out of the Vuelta a Espana, but was visibly relieved and elated to bite into the gold medal on the podium - pounding his chest in reference to the movie Wolf of Wall Street, as is his habit in giving tribute to popular culture.
"I was waiting for this moment," Sagan beamed. "I did my preparation after the Vuelta. I had to recover after the crash and then I had to start preparing for this race. I came here with three weeks without racing, and didn't know what I would do."
What he did was leave the rest of his competitors behind at a critical moment in the race, making the move that everyone wanted to make. His decision to keep pressing forward rather than let anyone come across was intentional.
"I tried to do the best I could do to remain alone. That was the moment. It was crucial I think, because if I stayed with someone they would not pull me."
How he would celebrate his title, he could not decide, but said, "the first thing I need to do is run from here and then I can celebrate."
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