Two moments stood out in the minutes after Michal Kwiatkowski won Milan-Sanremo. First there was Peter Sagan, beaten by a spoke length, extending his hand to Kwiatkowski in congratulations. Then came Sagan’s comment to Italian TV, that “it wasn’t the result that mattered, the important thing was to put on a show”.
Sagan is one of a kind; I think we’re all agreed on that. But this was so good you couldn’t help wondering if you’d missed the small print somewhere that explained bike racing was in fact choreographed, and rehearsed, like wrestling. Because in almost every race Sagan is somehow there, and equally, somehow, you find yourself jumping up and down on your sofa at the end willing him to cross the line first.
Who knows, maybe it’s not just Sagan. Maybe this is how every team, and every cyclist see’s their job, with a meeting in the bus ahead of each stage where they discuss who would be putting on the day’s show, before stepping out to sign autographs and tell the media they have high hopes for the day.
Maybe that’s what Alexis Gougeard of AG2R La Mondiale was doing when he tried to break free of the peloton with 45km to go, and join the break that everyone except the he figured was doomed.
It certainly raised questions, most of which went unanswered, as he pounded his way up the road. Had he been trying to reach the breakaway to deliver the news in person that their day was over, it might have been more believable. But whatever his motivation, it was a heck of a show.
Then there was Tom Dumoulin, or more specifically his chin, leading the group up the Poggio in what were heroic scenes. It was almost cruel to past him to the Team Sky riders, almost taking in the scenery, while the Dutchman heaved them towards the summit before breaking off. Another great show.
And finally Sagan, the PT Barnum of the peloton, who unveiled his showstopper some 5km out, and demonstrated his willingness to be the lead out man for whoever dare go with him.
Which kind of makes him everyone’s teammate, including Kwiatkowski who, as stunned as anyone that he’d beaten the World Champion in a Classic sprint, gratefully accepted Sagan’s hand. Quite the show.
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