Heading into the day as one of the pre-race favourites, World Champion Peter Sagan did not disappoint in Belgium at the opening cobbled classic of the season with a strong display just missing out on victory. At the end of 200.8km of racing, Sagan, with number 1 on his back, was out paced in the kick to the line after over 50km at the front of the race in the day’s winning breakaway.
“For this time of the season I felt pretty good,” said Sagan after the finish. “It’s one month now since my last race, and I’ve just been preparing and training in Sierra Nevada. It was a hard race today and in the finale I felt like in one or two weeks I’ll be better. But for now, it’s already a good sign.”
Sport Director Lars Michaelsen added: “I think the race played out very much like we had expected. We had a morning breakaway and we kept our guys fresh for the part of the race where it all happened.”
Michaelsen continued: “We saw some nice team work to try and bring Peter in an ideal position on Taaienberg. That’s when the team showed they were really strong together and that Peter Sagan is a champion. I think that nearly going for the win, more than a month after his last race at Tour de San Luis, shows Peter’s strength as a rider. I consider the result of the race positive. I’m happy with the strategy we had and with the fact the team followed it. In my opinion, if Peter had more races in his legs he would have probably won.”
“The break went a bit early,” Sagan added. “We worked well together but in the finale I saw the gap was coming down so I made two or three accelerations on the cobbles and this took it out of me. I started to feel the cramps in the final kilometres and Greg is in better shape than me with a few more race days. But there are more important races to come.”
“Also, it was great to race here in the rainbow jersey – it’s a great race with a special atmosphere.”
“I’m good. It wasn’t bad. I was again second but still for now I come here in Belgium to compare with other riders. It was a good race and I was in the front. Then Greg Van Avermaet was in front of me,” a relaxed Sagan told Sporza at the finish.
“It’s [the Tour of Flanders] far away still. I did a lot of work before. In the end, I had less energy and it was my first race in one month. It was very good.”
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