OUDENAARDE, Belgium — World champion Peter Sagan won the first big classic race of his career with a solo victory Sunday in the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders.
Sagan, who captured the world title last September in Richmond, Virginia, finished ahead of three-time winner Fabian Cancellara, who was competing in his final Tour of Flanders. Sep Vanmarcke was third.
Sagan dropped Vanmarcke in the Paterberg, a brutal cobbled ascent with a maximum gradient of 20 percent, then resisted Cancellara. Sagan was so strong in the finale that he increased the gap over the former time trial world champion in the last five kilometers of the 255-kilometer Monument race.
“It was super hard. From the start until the finish, it was always full gas,” said Sagan, who celebrated with a wheelie once he crossed the finish line.
Last year’s winner Alexander Kristoff captured the sprint of the peloton to finish fourth.
The Tour of Flanders is part of five high-profile classics called the Monument that also includes Milan-San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia.
Sagan, who had his first victory in the world champion’s rainbow jersey last month at the Gent-Wevelgem race, will be among the favorites of Paris-Roubaix next weekend.