While Tom Boonen sprinted to the win in Gent-Wevelgem, Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) will carry away a great many plaudits for his impressive show of aggression in the finale. The Slovak gave another firm indication of his Classics potential by animating the closing stages and almost defying the chasing group behind.
After forcing the on the last ascent of the Kemmelberg, Sagan was then part of a four-man raid that formed in the final 35km. While it was always going to be a tall order to stay clear of a sizeable group containing so many big names, the 21-year-old’s efforts on the front meant that it was a close-run thing, and his escape was ultimately thwarted inside the closing two kilometres.
“I tried some accelerations on the climbs and then we formed a group at the front and started to work,” Sagan told Cyclingnews after crossing the line in Wevelgem. “There were only four of us left in front with the peloton behind, and a lot of good riders were left behind like Boonen, Bennati, Gilbert and Ballan. All of their teams pulled hard to bring us pack, and there were more of them.”
Sagan had his teammate Maciej Bodnar, Sylvain Chavanel (Quick Step) and Ian Stannard (Sky) for company in the breakaway, as he sought to grab the race by the scruff of the neck rather than wait for the sprint.
“I wanted to go in a break,” he said. “In the races in Belgium you never know who might win. We were out in front, and there was nothing more to do but go hard to the finish. “
The breakaway group’s solidarity was shattered two kilometres from the line when Stannard decided to attack alone, and Sagan felt that the Englishman had not collaborated fully during their escape.
“We all pulled, but the Sky rider worked a little less and then in the finale he attacked by himself,” Sagan said. “Maybe this might have stopped us from staying out in front, because we didn’t all work equally.”
Nonetheless, Sagan was content with his day’s work, and mindful that there are bigger races coming up on the horizon.
“I’m happy because I tried,” he said. “Races are like that, one time you might finish in front, another time no, but I tried to attack. I was in front and I have the legs and next week there are more important races like Flanders and Roubaix, although it will be tougher tactically there.”
In only his second year as a professional, Sagan acknowledged that while he might yet be too young to aspire to victory in the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, he will certainly not line up in Bruges and Compiegne simply to make up the numbers.
“I want to try because I need to start doing these Classics and gain experience,” he said. “Now we’ll see if I can do something. It’s not that I can’t win but I’m still young, and I must go and do these races.”