At the end of a windy day in Belgian at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Peter Sagan had a seventh place to show for his efforts over the 200km of racing. The 68th edition of the semi classic was won by a strong solo move in the final 16km with Sagan mixing it in the sprint for second.
“Today was a nice race, cold with a lot of wind, and we came here with the same team as yesterday against a lot of fresh legs,” explained Sport Director Lars Michaelsen. “In the end Peter finished seventh and we can take the positive notes again from his performance here and over the weekend as a whole.”
“I enjoyed this weekend in Belgium and it was another good ride for me today, a good experience and I tried,” said Sagan after returning to the team bus. “My condition is still not optimal and I hope it will continue to improve.”
The action got underway with an 11-man escape pulling clear and establishing themselves at the head of the race, building an eight-minute advantage. Once the bunch started to react behind, the gap soon started to fall but over each exposed section of road and climb, the bunch thinned again and again.
Sagan stretched his legs for the first time up the Kwaremont, causing splits in the peloton as he hit out on the steep cobbled slopes, but normality was soon restored with a long way still to race.
“On the Kwaremont Peter showed his strength when he came from behind on the cobblestones, accelerating and passing everyone,” Michaelsen continued. “The winner of the race was able to follow him there, but of course with 85km to go it was too early so he had to sit up. We knew if we didn’t try to do anything on the climbs it would most likely end up in a sprint.”
It wasn’t until under 50km to go that the next dangerous move came, and once again Sagan was in the thick of the action, pulling clear with seven others over the final ascent of the day. With little cohesion, Sagan pressed on, but in vain as the race once again came back together with the early break now in touching distance, 45km from the finish.
“I tried a lot of times to attack today hoping to force a breakaway, but it seems to be my destiny that people find it hard to work together with me,” Sagan remarked.
Not long after the regrouping, the early escapee was also absorbed, igniting attacks and sparking a strong move of 15 to extract itself from the bunch, but with no Tinkoff riders present. The gap between the two groups hovered at around 30 to 40 seconds, and with 16km to race one rider jumped clear and would eventually hold on to take victory.
Little represented in the main bunch, Tinkoff had to leave the chasing to others on the run in and although the bunch managed to claw its way back to the breakaway before the finish, there was still one remaining out front.
Sagan pushed hard in the sprint for second, but his earlier efforts took their toll.
“Overall it’s been a good opening weekend for us in Belgium that we can improve on as well as taking the positive points. And we have time left between now and the big classics at the end of March and start of April to sharpen up certain areas,” concluded Michaelsen.
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classics cobbles kuurne-brussels-kuurne Peter Sagan Tinkoff