Peter Sagan starts the new week full of confidence. He races the Three Days of De Panne and then tries to do something he has never done before: win a monument. He said that in respect to last year, when he placed second in the Tour of Flanders, he feels more confident in his ability to win.
“I’m always confident,” Sagan told Cycling Weekly yesterday. “If I’m not confident in myself, then who should be?”
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The 24-year-old Slovak sat inside team Cannondale’s bus in his green kit. He just returned from the podium of Ghent-Wevelgem, where stood on the third step. Last year, he made the escape, attacked and won the right to stand on top.
German John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) and Frenchman Arnaud Démare (FDJ.fr), first and second place, rode from the podium to the pressroom to speak to journalists. Sagan cut a straight line through the fans in Wevelgem’s streets to reach Cannondale’s green and black bus. He quickly stepped inside and cleaned himself ahead of the journey to the team’s hotel in nearby Kortrijk.
The TV inside the bus showed replays of the sprint, the crashes and interviews with winner Degenkolb. Sagan followed Italian team-mate Oscar Gatto, avoided the crashes and began his sprint. Degenkolb, in his black and white team Giant jersey, powered past and Démare followed.
“I was able to make a good sprint. I felt good. It’s only that I started a little early, and I think Degenkolb was on my wheel. Our team and Giant pulled. Third place is all right. It’s good. I’m happy with it,” Sagan explained.
He spoke in his preferred second language, Italian. He explained that without Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel in the race, and with André Greipel down in a crash, he could have won the sprint.
“A sprint like this is good for me. [Alexander] Kristoff won Milan-San Remo. Today, he started too early and faded,” Sagan continued. “I had the condition today to win but it’s only that sprints are like that, some you win and some you don’t. The sprinters that were there… we are all there at the same level. There wasn’t one stronger than me.”
He ends the weekend in the same spot as last year: one win and one podium. On Friday, he won E3 Harelbeke and yesterday he placed third. Last year, he placed second in Harelbeke and escaped for the Ghent-Wevelgem title.
Sagan achieved his goals over the last four years. He won four stages in the Tour de France en route to collecting green jerseys in 2012 and 2013. He also took the points jersey in almost every other stage race around the world. He conquered one-day races Ghent-Wevelgem, Brabantse Pijl, E3 Harelbeke and the GP of Montreal.
What is missing and what he wants this year is a big one-day race, one of the five monuments. He has his chance to collect a victory in one this Sunday in the Tour of Flanders and next Sunday in Paris-Roubaix.
“I’m at a good level ahead of Flanders,” Sagan said. “I’ve showed that also with my results.”
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