This Sunday sees the second of cycling’s Monuments – Ronde van Vlaanderen, a race that signifies all that Flanders has to offer, including 18 Hellingen – the cobblestone climbs that signify this race. Having finished fourth last year, Peter Sagan leads Tinkoff at this infamous one-day race and will be targeting the top step of the podium following a strong classics campaign so far including victory at last Sunday’s Gent – Wevelgem.
Also known as the Tour of Flanders, Sunday’s race will celebrate its 100th edition since its creation in 1913 by the co-founder of sports newspaper Sportwereld, Karel Van Wijnendaele. The 2016 edition will cover no less than 255.9km between the start in Brugge and the finish in Oudenaarde.
Sagan spoke of the importance of the race to both himself and the team when looking ahead to Sunday. “The Tour of Flanders is a really important race for me – I confirmed last weekend that I am on the right track and therefore I am satisfied with my current form. This day is also important for the whole team and I know that I can trust my teammates in supporting me.
“I am looking forward to this race, but you also have to stay concentrated. On the road I’ll monitor the progress of the race because this one is unpredictable and every small mistake could be decisive. All of my opponents are strong, but there will only be one winner.”
Lining up alongside Peter Sagan is a core that has ridden alongside him through the classics so far this season including Maciej Bodnar, Adam Blythe and Oscar Gatto. The young duo of Michael Gogl and Juraj Sagan join Nikolay Trusov and Pavel Brutt, who continues his strong return to racing, to complete the roster.
“Peter is of course our absolute leader here and we’ve built a team around him to try and support him as far as possible into the race,” explained Sport Director for Sunday, Tristan Hoffman. “You can split the race into three sections – the first 100km, the second 100km and then the final 50km – and we need riders to be able to support and look after Peter in each section.”
Juraj Sagan will line up alongside his brother at his first Tour of Flanders and, together with all the other riders, he has worked hard to prove his place on the team here. With Oscar Gatto having proved he’s got what it takes to be there late in the day with Peter, the Tinkoff line-up is ready for action.
“From the start on, depending on the wind situation it can be fast and a bigger group can go up the road so we will need to pay attention there. When you look at the classics so far, there are still some of the big teams that are missing a big win and we can expect them to try and dictate the race. As always at Flanders it’s a tough race, but for Peter’s chances we hope that it’s hard and man against man at the end.”
With so many important and key parts of the race it is easier to pick out places where the race is likely not to be decided rather than where it could be. Last year’s decisive move came after the Kruisberg but any of the climbs in the final 50km could see the winning move go clear if it hasn’t already.
Peter Sagan’s consistency has been unrelenting so far this season, with podium places at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Tirreno-Adriatico and E3 Harelbeke, followed by a huge win at Gent – Wevelgem. This gives both himself and the team confidence heading into Sunday’s race, one of the most historic in the racing calendar.
Hoffman continued, saying: “The race is often decided on the Kwaremont and the Paterberg but you need to be well positioned ahead of every difficulty and to be ready for anything on this course. The weather is looking good at the moment so that should make things a bit easier to manage, but you need some good luck in the classics and we hope to avoid any crashes or mechanical problems. Then at the end it’s up to Peter having the legs that can make the difference.”
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classics cobbles Peter Sagan ronde van vlaanderen Tinkoff tour of flanders world champion