Peter Sagan and the possibly fictitious baton-passing pee stop

Ahead of the Tour of Flanders, FDJ manager Marc Madiot came out with the most outstandingly French quote to describe what it must be like to be Peter Sagan. “Sagan has the enormous freedom of not being obliged to win in order to exist,” he said.

Until September, Peter Sagan’s record didn’t really match his reputation. He may have won the Tour de France’s green jersey four years in a row, but his manner of winning it – bucketloads of second places – told a story in itself.

He’d won major one-day races before, including Gent-Wevelgem just last weekend, but notching a classic isn’t the same as crossing the line first in a Monument or the World Championships.

Monuments are more significant. You put Monuments in bold when you’re doing a list of the bike races which actually matter. Milan-San Remo, The Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and The Tour of Lombardy. That’s it. Five chances a year – but actually no such thing because any given rider is unlikely to suit more than three of them.

Sagan, already world champion, has now troubled the Monument scorers by winning the Tour of Flanders. How did he do it?

The race went messy on the cobbled 20% Koppenberg after 210km. Michal Kwiatkowski attacked a bit after it and just as he had done in E3 Harelbeke last weekend, Sagan pursued him – but this time with a better outcome.

Sagan and Kwiatkowski have history. Not in a beef/feud sense (and they certainly haven’t feuded over beef). It’s just that they’re the same age and both amazing cyclists, so they’ve been racing against each other for pure time. They’ve also both been world champion and are suited to broadly similar races.

The pair, plus Sep Vanmarcke, caught the breakaway riders with 20km to go. Kwiatkowski then faded on the Oude Kwaremont (shallower, longer, still cobbled) and then on the final climb, the Paterberg (short, steep, cobbled), Sagan pulled away from Vanmarcke. Cancellara chased him having been in a group further back, but could only manage Sagan’s customary position in what was his final Tour of Flanders before retirement. Some sort of baton-handing/snatching ceremony must have taken place between the pair while they had a pee stop earlier on.

Sagan quotes are never flowery, but he knows what it’s like to be Peter Sagan better than Marc Madiot does. His view of the race?

“It’s very hard to work with other guys because no one wants to work with me… so it’s better to drop everyone.”

Did Lizzie Armitstead win the women’s Tour of Flanders?

Of course she did. Lizzie Armistead is not a world champion striving for significant victories; she is a world champion hoovering them up absent-mindedly as if it’s the easiest thing in the world (which of course it isn’t).

What’s next?

Paris-Roubaix on Sunday. It’ll be Cancellara’s last opportunity for a Monument win – although being as he’s already won seven, they’ve hardly proved elusive.