Peter Sagan wins the Elite Mens road race at the 2016 World Road Championships. (Graham Watson)

Peter Sagan wins the Elite Mens road race at the 2016 World Road Championships. (Graham Watson)

It was a close race to the finish line, but Peter Sagan (Slovakia) fought hard to retail the world road race title on Sunday at the 2016 UCI Road World Championships in Qatar. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain) narrowly lost out with Tom Boonen (Belgium) placing third.

The Belgian team had been pushing the lead in the day’s racing over the flat 257.3-kilometre route in the desert around Doha. However, lone ranger Sagan managed to elude the Belgians to take his second consecutive world title with the coveted rainbow jersey on his shoulders for another year.

Podium of the 2016 Road World Championships in Qatar. Peter Sagan (SVK) flanked by Mark Cavendish (GBR) and Tom Boonen (BEL). (Yuzuru SUNADA)

Podium of the 2016 Road World Championships in Qatar. Peter Sagan (SVK) flanked by Mark Cavendish (GBR) and Tom Boonen (BEL). (Yuzuru SUNADA)

“I don’t believe it, I’m still in shock. I am very, very happy because in the crosswinds I was the last rider in the lead group. I felt like the final sprint was in a headwind, so I felt like I went from a little while back. It’s unbelievable,” said Sagan after the finish.

“I have the biggest group of fans here and I have to thank all of Slovakia because I feel they give me a lot of energy here.”

Crash

The Qatarian desert claimed victims in the form of Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan and British powerhouse Ian Stannard. As the urgency of the race picked up, Luke Durbridge (Australia) fell hard with Colombian sprint hope Fernando Gaviria colliding with him.

Luka Mezgec crashes in the Elite Mens road race at the 2016 World Road Championships. (Graham Watson)

Luka Mezgec crashes in the Elite Mens road race at the 2016 World Road Championships. (Graham Watson)

In the last 150km, the majority of classics specialists were there in the 26-man group including Olympic champion Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium), Sagan, Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), Boonen, Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), Michael Matthews (Australia) and Alexander Kristoff (Norway) among them. Elia Viviani (Italy) and Cavendish were the most notable pure sprinters.

After chasing hard in the heat, Degenkolb and Kittel both dropped out inside the final 50km, looking completely spent. Into the final lap, the lead group was strung out behind the remaining Belgian riders. As the Belgian workers dropped out one by one, Italy moved to the front inside the final 10km.

Peter Sagan goes neck and neck with Mark Cavendish to the finish line. (Graham Watson)

Peter Sagan goes neck and neck with Mark Cavendish to the finish line. (Graham Watson)

In the final 500 metres, the leading contenders started to open up their sprints with Sagan taking the victory by a bike length over Cavendish, who had swerved around Matthews and lost some momentum.

Elite men’s road race results. 257.3km

1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) in 5-40-43
2. Mark Cavendish (Great Britain)
3. Tom Boonen (Belgum)
4. Michael Matthews (Australia)
5. Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy)
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway)
7. Alexander Kristoff (norway)
8. William Bonnet (France)
9. Niki Terpstra (Netherlands)
10. Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) all same time
Other
12. Adam Blythe (Great Britain)
Read more at Cycling Weekly UK

Watch the final attack on 34:03 and the final sprint at 36:30 in this video courtesy of Final Dash.