Peter Sagan followed up a hot streak and failed to disappoint fans in yesterday’s Tour of Flanders in Oudenaarde, Belgium. The Slovak cyclist of team Liquigas-Cannondale, still only 22 years old, showed the strongest behind the winning trio.
“I’m pleased with how it’s going. Despite the problems, I made the race,” said Sagan.
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He proved to be ready for Flanders in the previous week. He showed strongly in E3 Harelbeke and helped Fabian Cancellara form a key escape in Ghent-Wevelgem last Sunday. During the week, he won the opening stage of the Three Days of De Panne.
“I raced Flanders last year and saw it’s a good race for me,” he said ahead of the race. “It’s hard and the climbs are not so long.”
Sagan always rode in the first 10 on the early climbs, including the first of three ascents of the Oude Kwaremont and Paterberg. He marked Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) on the second Kwaremont climb, but got caught out by the crash of Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Barracuda) on the Paterberg.
“I had to put my foot down after Van Summeren slid out,” Sagan added. “Chasing back took its toll.”
Sagan bridged to the key move with eventual winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), but it was for nothing after Sky worked to close the gap for Edvald Boasson Hagen. When they reached the final Kwaremont climb, Sagan lacked the energy to join Boonen and Filippo Pozzato (Farnese Vini) as they bridged to Alessandro Ballan (BMC Racing). The trio rode free to the win.
Sagan explained: “My legs were shot.” Afterwards, he tried to pull himself back into the race up the Paterberg, but it was useless. The trio led by 20 seconds and were gaining time. With five kilometres left, they had one minute’s advantage.
“In the next years he’ll aim for these races,” sports director Stefano Zanatta said. “It’s too early for him now.”
“Sagan,” said Boonen, “will be on the podium or win it in the next three or four years.”