Peter Sagan’s quest for a major Belgian race continues after the Cannondale rider finished second behind Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) in E3 Harelbeke on Friday. The race marked Sagan’s third major runners-up spot this season after he was also second in Strade Bianche and last Sunday’s Milan-San Remo.
Despite another lost opportunity, however, Sagan remains optimistic, with the knowledge that he can still win a Monument in next Sunday’s far more crucial encounter at the Tour of Flanders.
“Maybe the Tour of Flanders is my destiny and that will be big win next Sunday. That’s what I’m waiting for now,” Sagan told Cyclingnews after completing his regulatory anti-doping test.
In truth Sagan won second place rather than lost first. During the opening set of climbs he allowed Omega-Pharma Quick Step to control the field but he found himself on the back foot when the race split on the Taaienberg. QuickStep’s confidence in Tom Boonen was misplaced when the Belgian later cracked but Cannondale were put under severe stress as they battled to bring Sagan back on level terms.
A bike change with 44 kilometres to go made matters even more problematic for Sagan who could have easily sat up and saved his legs for another day.
Once he had made contact with the leaders, Sagan kept a low profile compared to the aggression he’d shown at Tirreno-Adriatico and when Cancellara made his race winning move on the Kwaremont – the same pitch of road he’d used to devastating effect in 2011 – Sagan could only watch as the RadioShack rider quickly established a 15 second advantage.
“I tried to go with him on the climb but I was a bit empty in my legs because I had the problem with my bike and when I managed to get back to the first group I was a little bit tired. We did the Kwaremont and it was hard because of all the work the team and I had to do in chasing but still think that my form is good.”
Sagan marshalled much of the chasing thereafter, combining efforts with Daniel Oss (Team BMC), Geraint Thomas (Team Sky), Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma QuickStep) and Sebastian Langeveld (Orica GreenEdge).
However by then the race was over, and Cancellara was heading towards his third title in four years. While the RadioShack rider confirmed to the Classics world that he is far from the spent force many had speculated, Sagan said he would relish the challenge laid down for next week’s Tour of Flanders and refused to rule out Boonen, who is still coming back to speed after a disruptive winter.
“Today Cancellara was really strong, and he has the condition but we’ll see at Flanders. With Boonen, I don’t know but you can’t count a guy like him out. He’ll be a protagonist next week too.”