Experience won out over youth in the finale of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, but Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio dismissed the notion that Peter Sagan lost out to Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) because he had problems coping with the 256km race distance.
Sagan’s Ronde is destined to be remembered more for his lamentable actions on the podium than his performance on the road, but immediately after the finish, Amadio declared himself pleased with the Slovak’s display during the race. Sagan was dropped by Cancellara on the final ascent of the Paterberg but held off the chasers to finish in second place.
“If it was a question of distance, he wouldn’t have come second. The problem was that Cancellara was the strongest and that’s it. Peter was the second strongest, but the question of distance didn’t really enter into it,” Amadio said. “Anybody who thinks that Peter has a problem coping with the distance doesn’t understand cycling.”
After losing Cancellara’s wheel on the Oude Kwaremont during the previous week’s E3 Harelbeke, Sagan looked to stay as close as possible to the Swiss on each of the hellingen at the Tour of Flanders in the hope of sticking with him all the way to Oudenaarde.
“Cancellara was marking Peter and Peter was marking Cancellara: that’s normal when you know you’re the two strongest riders in the race,” Amadio said. “After Harelbeke, we expected Cancellara to attack on the Kwaremont. The attack came and Peter was able to follow it. We expected him to attack on the Paterberg too, but that time he was able to get away.”
Rather than wait for the group behind atop the Paterberg, Sagan elected to give chase in the company of Jurgen Roelandts (Lotto Belisol). It soon became apparent that Cancellara would not be caught, but Sagan took visible satisfaction from staying clear to take second place, punching the air as he crossed the line.
“It’s always nicer to win but there’s nothing to complain about here,” Amadio admitted. “Even Peter’s celebration with the raised fist was significant – it showed that he had come away with the best result possible against this Cancellara. There’s nothing to say – it’s not a problem of distance, or the weather or anything. Cancellara was the strongest.”
Sunday was the second time that the peloton tackled the new Tour of Flanders finale in Oudenaarde. Some riders, including Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), felt that the severity of the finishing circuits over the Kwaremont and Paterberg inhibited attacking before the final lap, but Amadio believed that weather conditions had an equally significant impact on the race and discouraged attacks from distance.
“It was conditioned by the weather too,” Amadio pointed out. “In these low temperatures, riders burn energy much more quickly and you could see that the selection came about quite quickly after the first acceleration.
“It’s very significant also that a group of twenty riders behind wasn’t able to bring back Sagan and Roelandts, who were dangling there just ten seconds in front of them. That makes you realise that it was actually a very tough day.”