After a great Spring classics campaign Peter Sagan (Cannondale) opted to take a short break after the Tour of Flanders in which he finished as runner-up behind Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack). By not riding Paris-Roubaix the 23 year-old Slovakian rider aimed to be fresh enough for the Amstel Gold Race next Sunday. Riding the Brabantse Pijl on Wednesday was a final test to learn whether his form was still there. It was a good test, as Sagan beat world champion Philippe Gilbert (BMC) in the sprint in Overijse, Belgium.
"I'm glad that I was good today, that I could ride such a finale," Sagan said.
At 17km from the finish the Slovakian joined a move from the BMC duo Greg Van Avermaet and Gilbert. Together with Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) and Simon Geschke (Argos-Shimano) they joined the five-man leader's group. In the final kilometre Van Avermaet attacked with Nicolas Maes (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) on the final ascent. Sagan neutralized their move with a powerful surge in the background. Gilbert struggled hard to stay on his wheel but eventually returned before the final corner at 200m from the finish line. The world champion started the sprint but Sagan didn't bow his head and fought back to claim the win.
"There were two riders up front, a Quickstep but especially BMC. They were playing team tactics. At the finish I gave everything. I knew there was a headwind so I made him take the lead so I could try and overtake him; I succeeded," Sagan said.
It's clear that Sagan will start as the top favourite in Maastricht, The Netherlands on Sunday. Last year he fell just short on the victory as he was beaten by Enrico Gasparotto and Jelle Vanendert in a close sprint. This time around Sagan knows his results are even better than last year and in the sprint up the Cauberg there will be few riders who can beat him.
Despite his great form Sagan will not be taking part in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Ardennes classic which is contested one week after the Amstel Gold Race. "Liège is too hard for me. I skipped Roubaix in order to be good at Amstel."
At the start of the Brabantse Pijl, in university town Leuven, Sagan walked up the start podium to sign on. On that podium featured Maja Leye, the podium hostess which was pinched by Sagan during the Tour of Flanders ceremony. It was the first time the two saw each other again after the much-debated incident. The miserable weather conditions, cold and wet, didn't keep Sagan from taking along a bouquet of flowers to apologize one last time for his behaviour. Five hours later the two ran into each other again since Sagan would receive some kisses on the podium as winner of the race. This time around Sagan used his hands to point at both misses, as if they show who the real stars of the podium were.
"This morning we ran into each other as well and I offered her flowers. It was a confusing story for everybody. That's behind us now."