The Associated Press DOHA (AP) — Slovakia’s Peter Sagan mounted a successful defense of his men’s elite Road World Championship, winning the title for the second straight year Sunday after beating out fierce rival and 2011 champion Mark Cavendish.
Winner a year ago in Richmond, Va., the 26-year-old Sagan saved his best for last, a magnificent thrust helping him overtake strong title contenders Cavendish of Britain and Tom Boonen over the last few meters of the 257.5-kilometer race.
Belgium’s Boonen finished third, while Australian Michael Matthews, second last year, was fourth.
A delighted Sagan said in a post-race television interview: “I don’t believe it. I’m still in shock.
“I was very happy because there was cross wind and I was the last one to make the first group. In the end it was a sprint. There was a bit of a headwind, so I felt I needed to come from the back.”
With the victory, Sagan became the first back-to-back champion of the race since Italian Paolo Bettini, who won in 2006 and 2007. He also became one of only eight riders in the history of the championship to win the title twice. Italian Alfredo Binda, Belgium’s Rik van Steenbergen, Spain’s Oscar Freire and Belgian legend Eddy Merckx won it three times.
In the closing stretch of the race, Cavendish appeared to briefly get caught behind Matthews, and that was enough for Sagan to make his move and reach the finishing line ahead of others.
“I am just disappointed I messed up tactically,” Cavendish said. “The hard thing was losing [Luke] Rowe to a puncture, which would have given us three in the front and he would have been valuable at the end. I am just going to have to settle for another second this year.”
It is the first time in the 89-year history of the event that the Road World Championships have been held in the Middle East.