Mark Cavendish second as Peter Sagan retains world road race title
By Matt Westby
Last Updated: 16/10/16 4:14pm
Mark Cavendish had to settle for second place as Peter Sagan successfully defended his World Championship road race title in a sprint finish in Qatar on Sunday.
Sagan (Slovakia) beat Cavendish (Great Britain) by a bike's length to become the first rider since Paolo Bettini in 2007 to retain the rainbow jersey. Tom Boonen (Belgium) was third.
Boonen and Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy) led out the sprint and while Sagan opted to pass the pair on the right-hand side, Cavendish decided to go left and lost crucial momentum when he momentarily became stuck behind Michael Matthews (Australia).
Only 21 riders were left at the head of the race at the finish line after crosswinds and an acceleration from Belgium had obliterated the peloton with just over 170km to go and left multiple groups scattered all over the road.
Sagan, who won last year's world title in the United States with a solo attack, said: "I don't believe it. I'm still in shock. I'm very happy because in the decisive point, when there was crosswinds, I was the last one who entered the first group.
"I felt like [the sprint] was a little bit in headwind and I had to go from a little bit back and I was also lucky because Nizzolo didn't close me on the fence. If he close me, for sure we crash because I don't brake.
"I don't know if it's possible [to have a party] here but for sure we have to try again a party because last time in America they close everything at 12am."
The race covered 257.5km, with the first 140km taking place on exposed desert roads to the north of Doha and then the last 106km on a 15.2km circuit on The Pearl Qatar man-made island.
Great Britain's nine-man team controlled the peloton for the opening 80km, but they were then caught out when Belgium forced splits by accelerating in crosswinds and only Cavendish, Adam Blythe and Luke Rowe managed to make it into a 26-man front group.
Cavendish was later reduced to just one team-mate when Rowe punctured and couldn't catch back up.
Sagan, Boonen, Matthews, Alexander Kristoff (Norway), Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium) and Elia Viviani (Italy) all also made it into the front group, but German trio Marcel Kittel, Andre Greipel and John Degenkolb missed out and instead formed part of the second group on the road.
A chase ensued and although the gap held at a minute for the best part of 50km, the second group was unable to make inroads and they were eventually forced to give in.
Up ahead, Belgium had six riders in the front group and appeared well placed to attack the likes of Cavendish and Sagan, but instead they banked on Boonen in the sprint and the leaders consequently arrived to the finish line still together.
Boonen, Nizzolo and Cavendish all had team-mates to lead them out, but Sagan trumped them all with a perfectly timed acceleration and will now wear the rainbow jersey for another year.
Men's World Championship road race result
1 Peter Sagan (Slovakia), 5:40:43
2 Mark Cavendish (Great Britain), same time
3 Tom Boonen (Belgium), st
4 Michael Matthews (Australia), st
5 Giacomo Nizzolo (Italy), st
6 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Norway), st
7 Alexander Kristoff (Norway), st
8 William Bonnet (France), st
9 Niki Terpstra (Netherlands), st
10 Greg Van Avermaet (Belgium), st