After nearly a month away from racing, the World Champion showed no lack of fitness problems when he bridged over to the winning move on the Taaienberg, and his second-place finish behind Greg Van Avermaet shows a continuation of his form so far this season. He helped pull the break along in the final hour of racing, and although showing brief moments of weakness after his initial surge, he was a constant worker in the break. He even put in several attacks of his own.
The Tinkoff leader, however, was unable to overcome Van Avermaet in the sprint, with the BMC man showing his rivals a clear pair of heels in the 200 kilometre race. Sagan’s engine seems primed and ready although that final speed might still be missing.
“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.
On paper, Sagan was probably the strongest rider in the five-man winning move that included Luke Rowe (Team Sky), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal) and Alexis Gougeard (AG2R La Mondiale). But Van Avermaet was the quickest and not only that, the most aggressive, as he launched his sprint with 200 metres remaining. Although Sagan tried to come back on terms he simply lacked his typical edge and was forced to settle for second place.
For those aiming for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is a marker of form more than a thorough objective and Sagan reminded the press of that when he was asked about his form with Flanders still more than a month away.
“It’s 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.”