Peter Sagan saw his chances of winning the E3 BinckBank Classic spoiled after a mechanical caused by a discarded water bottle, says a Team Bora-Hansgrohe sports director.
Sagan dropped off the group with eventual winner Zdenek Stybar (Deceuninck-Quick Step) at 19.5 kilometres remaining, looking down at his bike. He finished an eventual 17th in Harelbeke, Belgium.
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“A bottle from another rider hit his derailleur. And at that, moment, it was not working,” said Jan Valach.
“He was there in the important group and then he had a problem with the bike. In that moment, the mechanic had to do his job, not Peter. The race was breaking apart at that point. Peter had to slow down, and he lost contact with the front riders.”
Cycling Weekly takes on the Flanders cobbles
With that, Sagan lost his chance to repeat his 2014 victory in this race. The Slovak, winner of the 2017 Tour of Flanders and 2018 Paris-Roubaix, suffered with intestinal problems ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico. He fought to return to his best during the Italian stage race and to prepare for Milano-San Remo on Saturday.
In San Remo, he made the move with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) and Michal Kwiatkowski (Sky), and in the small group sprint six kilometres later, he placed fourth.
When asked if it was his fitness or the bike holding him back from a win, Sagan suggested “it was a little bit of both”.
“Something hit my shifter during the race and it reset. After that I only had the 11; after the mechanic reset it again it was working well, but it was in the crucial moment when Greg Van Avermaet attacked on the climb – I was dropped and I stayed on the group behind.”
Sagan is heading next to Ghent-Wevelgem on Sunday, a race he has won three times, including in 2018. He is thankful he did not crash in the race today so that he can fight for the win in Wevelgem and in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix further on the horizon.
“It was OK today, I didn’t crash,” Sagan added. “This race is always a little bit like a lottery if you feel good or bad because it’s after Milan-San Remo and you’re recovering for two or three days and you don’t train much – every year is different.
“We’ll see Sunday how I feel.”
His sports director, a four-time Slovakian road race champion who retired in 2010, stood near the team bus watching his country’s star sign autographs.
“Peter is going well. It’s just his first race after Milan-San Remo, so it’s not easy to do. So it’s always a test,” Valach explained. “He always takes time to get used to these cobbled classics after San Remo.”
“It is easy to say he is going well, and we are going to do everything for Ghent-Wevelgem. We will do our best to do a good race as a team, so let’s see how we do. All these big races are important. If we win one of them, it will be good.”