Peter Sagan is ignoring critics that say his Bora-Hansgrohe team is not capable of protecting a world champion or that his recent Ghent-Wevelgem victory was ‘easy’. Instead, he will put his head down and race for a second Tour of Flanders title.
The three-time world champion lines up as the race favourite for the Belgian cobbled monument on Sunday. He won his first Tour of Flanders in 2016 and after seeing Philippe Gilbert (Quick-Step Floors) ride clear for a solo win in 2017, said he is focused on a second title.
“Sometimes it’s better not to think about it and just do the things. Not focus on what was before and just focus on what is today and tomorrow,” Sagan said when asked about his ‘easy’ Ghent-Wevelgem victory.
“Cyclists go on feelings? It’s a matter of personality and what’s inside, not what somebody tells you.”
Sagan himself said after winning Ghent-Wevelgem that the 2018 title came with a little less effort than in 2013 and 2016. Either way, it hit the pressure valve after a couple of months of near-misses.
“It wasn’t a race of me against Quick-Step or me against Greg Van Averment, everybody was there. All of the fastest riders were there with the exception maybe of Alexander Kristoff,” added Sagan.
“I thought about how it could go. In the end, I had a card to play, Burghardt was with me in the group, and Elia had two or three teammates who could have decided to attack or to ride for a sprint. They decided to ride for a sprint and I concentrated only on doing my sprint, to win, not to beat somebody or to have bad thoughts – just to win.”
Everyone points to Quick-Step as the team to beat. Last year, Philippe Gilbert benefited from the team’s muscle to ride clear at 55.5 kilometres remaining and win solo.
Quick-Step showed that same strength when it rode with four men in the winning 23-man and worked for Elia Viviani in Ghent-Wevelgem. Sagan, however, took the victory.
Marcus Burghardt was with Sagan in the move and Sagan could lean on Daniel Oss earlier. Bora-Hansgrohe signed Oss over the winter after he spent years backing Greg Van Avermaet in the classics.
“I think our team improved a lot from last year,” Sagan added.
“In every race, that’s important. We are a good team for the classics but for the entire season. It will also depend on luck, good and bad, but I think we are strong enough and with the power, to be in the front in Flanders.”
Quick Step races with Gilbert and star riders Zdenek Stybar, Niki Terpstra and recent Dwars door Vlaanderen winner Yves Lampaert.
“Quick-Step would like to take the responsibility in the race early, that’s what I expect. We saw that last Sunday,” said general manager Ralph Denk.
“We weren’t the team with the most riders in the top group, but in the end, Peter won. Our goal is to bring him in a good position in the final and to protect him well with Burghardt or Oss. Then everything is possible for Peter.”
“Quick-Step also showed us in the last years how the race can be if they are doing their attacks,” added Sagan. “We have to be ready though, and to be prepared for something like that.”
“Ah, it’s hard to plan it [how to win]. We have to think about it spontaneously in the race.”
Sagan in 2016, marked an early move by Sky’s Michal Kwiatkowski, who shot out early for team-mate Geraint Thomas. Sagan stuck with it and dropped Kwiatkowski and then Sep Vanmarcke on the Paterberg to ride solo to Oudenaarde.
The victory had a special flavour in his first rainbow jersey from the 2015 Worlds in Richmond, Virginia.
“For sure, it’s much different, important to win one time the world championships and one time Flanders,” said Sagan.
“That time that I won already the first time world championships, and after that I won Flanders, that was more special, for sure.
“I don’t want to say now that it’s not important, but after the experiences you have different perspectives and points of view.”