The famous Belgian spring classic took place in particularly good weather, with temperatures climbing to almost 20 degrees Celsius under sunny skies.
The 255-km course between Bruges and Oudenaarde included 18 steep climbs in the Flemish Ardennes region south of Ghent. Sagan, Vanmarcke and the former world champion Michal Kwiatkowksi were the 3 breakaway riders going into the final.
On the 3rd and final climb of the Oude Kwaremont, only Vanmarcke was able to follow Sagan. In the background, Fabian Cancellara, riding his last Tour of Flanders, tried to close the gap jumping from a chasing group, but he came short.
Sagan wins one against two, against the wind
Sagan (Tinkoff) next dropped Vanmarcke on the steep cobble-stone climb of the Paterberg, the last hill of the day (small picture), and continued solo on the small, winding roads. Vanmarcke was joined by Cancellara, but the two of them could not close the 15-second gap.
On the contrary, the gap grew slowly but surely: sprinter Peter Sagan set up a fine piece of time trialling in the final 12 km - despite a head wind - and stood strong, despite a battle of one against two, to win in style.
Cancellara (bottom photo) came second, 25 seconds behind Sagan, waving his hands at the public in a symbolic goodbye to the Flemish fans. The Swiss rider won the Tour of Flanders 3 times, becoming immensely popular in Flanders - no rider has won the Tour of Flanders 4 times. Vanmarcke was third, Norway's Alexander Kristoff 4th and Britain's Luke Rowe 5th.
Sagan is the first reigning world champion to win the Tour of Flanders since Tom Boonen in 2006, and only the 5th in cycling history, after Louison Bobet, Rik Van Looy and Eddy Merckx. He dedicated his victory to the two cyclists who died in recent days, Antoine Demoitié
Two Belgians crash out before the final
Belgium lost its top favourite Greg Van Avermaet even before the final. Van Avermaet broke his collar bone and left the race in tears. He is out for the rest of the spring season. Another Belgian, promising rider Tiesj Benoot, also had to throw in the towel after an early crash.
Van Avermaet had won Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this season, beating Sagan, and felt he had the form of his life.
Lizzie Armitstead wins women's race
The women's race was won by Britain's Lizzie Armitstead. She beat Sweden's Emma Johansson in a long, tough and close sprint (photo below). Armitstead said is was "something I wanted ever since I started cycling. And in this jersey, it's even more special." (see video below)
With Armistead and Sagan, it's the two world champions who won the Tour of Flanders. They made a nice picture together on the stage after the race.