When you have so many weapons in your armoury, it can be difficult to know which one to use, as Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) discovered at E3 Harelbeke on Friday. Rapid in the sprint, powerful beyond his years and blessed with naturally aggressive instincts, the young Slovak perhaps played his hand too early in the finale of a race won by Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep).
Sagan was prominent when it appeared that the race was about to fragment on the slopes of the Oude Kwaremont, and then joined a late attempt to power off the front of the lead group after the final climb of the Tiegemberg. When it all came back together for a 45-man sprint in Harelbeke, however, the 22-year-old paid for his generous efforts and could only manage 14th place after losing his position on the final bend.
“I felt good, it’s just that I made some errors that I shouldn’t have made and then at the end I was missing a bit of strength,” Sagan told Cyclingnews as he rolled away from his team bus after the finish.
Sagan had talked through those errors in a short debriefing with Liquigas-Cannondale management after crossing the line, but there was a consoling pat on the shoulder and a ‘bravo’ of encouragement from manager Roberto Amadio as he sent him to pedal off back to the team hotel in nearby Kortrijk.
“I pulled in the group as well, and then I tried to go away in a break and then in the end, after the final kilometre there was a curve to the left and I got left behind, so I wasn’t able to do the sprint,” Sagan explained.
While a rider with Sagan’s speed might have been expected to try and keep his powder dry for a sprint finish, a mitigating factor was his expectation that the 13 hellingen that dot the course would have forced a greater selection.
“I wasn’t sure because this is the first time that I did the race but I thought that we would get to the finish with fewer riders than we did. But in the end, it was still a good experience. We’ll see.”
Sagan now turns his attentions to Gent-Wevelgem, a race which has even more potential to see a large group contest the finish. Last year, however, Sagan was part of a four-man break that threatened to upset the sprinters in the finale. On Sunday, which role will he play – sprinter or attacker?
“We’ll have to see,” Sagan said, as he swung into open traffic, headed for Kortrijk. “For now I’ll recover.”