While the world champion won Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne at the end of February, it is the Belgian Van Avermaet who has dominated the cobbled Classics of 2017 so far – winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, E3 Harelbeke and Ghent Wevelgem.
Yet when asked who the favourite was for victory in Flanders on Sunday, Sagan said “everybody, like always”.
“He’s [Van Avermaet] pretty strong, good, a very main rider. I told you there’s a lot of riders, it’s not just me and him in the peloton,” Sagan said.
“We have to be careful with everybody who is a favourite, and how the race is going to be. It’s not just about two riders. Then for sure we need a lot of luck.”
Sagan is aiming to become the first rider to win Flanders in consecutive years both times as world champion, and joked how he expected the race to play out on Sunday was the “big Kinder surprise”.
Despite missing out on victories at both E3 Harelbeke and Ghent-Wevelgem last weekend, Sagan was full of praise for his team-mates and their performances in the races so far. At E3 Sagan got held up in a crash and missed the race-winning move, however his team-mate Lukas Postleberger finished in fifth place.
“We have good spirit in the team and everybody knows what we have to do in the best way,” the 27-year-old said.
“I feel very good how I felt before, we are a very good team, [there’s a] good atmosphere in the team. For sure there’s no pressure inside the team. We want to do our best that is the most important, the main things come.”
After Ghent-Wevelgem Sagan was accused of body-checking Maxime Vantomme (WB Veranclassic-Aqua Protect) on the Kemmelberg climb, when trying to react to van Avermaet’s attack ahead of him.
Watch: Tour of Flanders essential guide
When asked about the incident, he explained the front lever of his bike got caught under the saddle of the other rider, before apologising if he had done anything wrong.
“For sure I didn’t do that body check on purpose. It was not a reaction but I think in that moment I wanted to go in the front and my lever from the bike just blocked under the saddle of another guy and after I lost the balance I went on the left side and I gave him a body check but it was not on purpose,” Sagan said.
“I’m sorry If I did something wrong but there are worst thing in the group happening.”
Sagan has never won in Roubaix with his best placed finish so far being sixth in 2014 yet he stressed it was hard “but not impossible” to win both in one year.
“Flanders is the first race and we’ll see how it is tomorrow, and after it is Roubaix. For sure both races are important. It would be very nice to win both, that will be very hard but it’s not impossible,” he continued.
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