Peter Sagan was left to lament his "destiny", which supposedly dictates that other riders will always be reluctant to work with him, on Sunday after an aggressive ride at Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne came to nothing but seventh place.
The world champion was the man to ignite the race for the first real time with a big acceleration on the Oude Kwaremont and he played his part thereafter in turning what is often a sprinter-friendly race into a less controlled affair. He was regularly up front when the race split up and was part of a small group to go clear over the top of the Nokereberg, the final climb of the day, though they failed to get organised.
"I tried a lot of times today and I was hoping we would come [to the final] in a breakaway, but still it's my destiny – it's very hard to work with somebody," Sagan told Cyclingnews and a couple of other media in front of the Tinkoff bus before being hurried off to the airport.
The world champion has been here before; given the depth of his talent, riders are often wary about forming moves with him for fear of simply dragging him to the finish only to be outpaced to the line. Indeed, more than one Tour de France stage went begging in that manner last year.
Sagan missed the boat when a large group went clear ahead of the two local laps around Kuurne – the group from which Jasper Stuyven attacked and took a solo victory – and his chances of breaking free were over as the sprinters teams ramped it up in the peloton.
"After that here were lots of strong teams, Katusha and Cofidis were pulling for a final sprint but still they didn't make it. A race is a race," he added.
Sagan was back at the Belgian opening weekend of the Classics season, starting with Omloop Het Niewusblad on Saturday, for the first time since his neo-pro year in 2010, and he described it as "a good experience" – one that will stand him in good stead ahead of the bigger races to come.
The two races were his first competitive outings since the Tour de San Luis over a month ago and, after spending time at an altitude camp in the Sierra Nevada, he came in with the aim of testing his condition. Second at Omloop, where he says he was "without energy, no legs" in the sprint from the select group, and prominent at Kuurne, he needn't be worrying too much about his form, but he insisted there is still much room for improvement.
"I enjoyed it. It was a nice ride, a good experience, a good try," he said.
"My condition is so-so. Quite good, but not super. It's good but I hope it will be better. I'm hoping growing up next days will be good."