By Gregor Brown published
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) continues to smile despite losing the Tour of Flanders yesterday in Oudenaarde, Belgium. He crossed the line nearly one and a half minutes behind a solo winner Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), but still punched the air in celebration.
"It was my goal this season to do well in these first classics. I did well," Sagan said in a TV interview.
The 23-year-old Slovak has a good record: Milan-San Remo (second), E3 Harelbeke (second), Ghent-Wevelgem (first) and Flanders (second)
"I lost one race [San Remo] because of my mistake, Fabian went strongly in the other two and there was nothing to do."
Thanks to his performances, Sagan leads the WorldTour and CQ Ranking for 2013.
'Nothing to complain out'
The Cannondale riders arrived at the team bus one by one. Some of them pulled out early on, the others rolled in with the different groups behind Cancellara.
Fabio Sabatini and Kristjan Koren remained with Sagan into the last moments of the race, until Cancellara blew up the group on the Oude Kwaremont climb.
Unlike the other one-day races, the green machine was less visible in Flanders. General Manager Roberto Amadio, while watching his riders roll in, explained that was a conscience decision. They saw that Cancellara was going well and decided to let RadioShack carry the race.
When the surge came, Sagan forced himself to keep Cancellara's wheel through the finale metres of cobble road that follows the Kwaremont climb. The duo rode free to the final Paterberg climb, where Cancellara was able to shake Sagan.
"Cancellara dropped him on the Kwaremont in E3 Harelbeke, he dropped him on the Paterberg today. Maybe next year he won't drop him!" Amadio told Cycling Weekly and another journalist.
"There's nothing to complain out. The fact that Peter threw up his arm when he crossed the line shows that he was happy. He did the best he could with Cancellara in the race."
The Sagan show now travels from the cobbled classics to the more undulating one-day races. He said that he had a small bet: Had he won Flanders, he would have lined up for Paris-Roubaix. He placed second as a junior in 2008 to Andy Fenn.
Instead, Sagan will race Brabantse Pijl in 10 days' time and the Amstel Gold Race the following Sunday. Afterwards, he will take a break before returning to the stage races, starting with the Tour of California in May.
He leaves Flanders with a smile.
"Look, I've got to be happy with were I'm at," Sagan told Cycling Weekly after the podium presentation. "Cancellara has been doing these races for more than ten years, this is only my third year. Once I didn't finish, I placed fifth last year and now second. I think I'm going in the right direction."
Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.
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