World Champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) leaves Wevelgem this evening wondering what his rivals were thinking in the Belgian classic Ghent-Wevelgem. He says that he was confused by the “cheap game” of Niki Terpstra (Quick Step Floors), who watched as Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) rode away to another win.
With 16 kilometres left in the 249.2-kilometre WorldTour race, Olympic champion and Friday’s E3 Harelbeke winner Van Avermaet charged away with Jens Keukeleire (Orica-Scott). Terpstra looked at Sagan and let a gap open.
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“Nothing,” Sagan said of what happened. He stepped off the podium, where he collected the flowers for third place.
“I just don’t know what Terpstra wanted to do. He attacked to go in the breakaway and afterwards he doesn’t want to work. This is just one example of how you can lose the race against me.”
Sagan already won this race in 2013 and last year. Like in most races, he was a heavy favourite at the start of the day.
Because of “nothing” happening, Sagan was forced to chase the Belgian duo immediately. They could not close, but Sagan salvaged a third place and WorldTour points ahead of a chasing group.
“What can I do? I am not his team-mate,” Sagan continued. “I’m not going to work, for what, for him to beat me in the sprint afterwards? I can decide today who wins.”
Van Avermaet forced the winning move when he attacked up the Kemmelberg. Sagan motored up to him and on the descent, the group grew to around 14 cyclists.
Keukeleire broke up that group with 20 kilometres to race to just him, Van Avermaet, Sagan, Terpstra and young Dane Søren Andersen (Sunweb). Then Van Avermaet motored away.
“There was a moment of doubt,” explained Terpstra, who stepped off the bus after showering.
“Also Sagan was frustrated, we both let the gap open. Andersen didn’t do anything, almost, and that was the biggest frustration for both me and Sagan. It wasn’t for me to close the gap, and then they were gone.”
Quick-Step argued with Sagan that it had sprinters Matteo Trentin in the immediate chase group and Fernando Gaviria further behind. Andersen’s team-mates and sprinter Michael Matthews rode in the Trentin group too.
Sagan closed the gap to around eight seconds at one point. Terpstra began to help, but it was too late.
“It’s a missed opportunity,” Terpstra added. “It went wrong for me and the team, but I’m happy that the shape is good and the team is OK. And that I didn’t fall, because there were times I was in a crash and didn’t fall.”
Terpstra climbed back in the bus. Sagan finished his moment in the mixed zone before riding to his Bora bus.
“Disappointed? It’s not disappointment, I’m more motivated,” Sagan said. “If you win always, then maybe you lose motivation. Now, I’m motivated to take a victory.”
The Slovakian returns home to Monaco this week to train ahead of the Tour of Flanders next Sunday. He leaves Wevelgem motivated, but bitter as well.
He added, “but against everybody, this is not sport, just… I don’t know, a very cheap game.”