Peter Sagan (Cannondale) took no chances in the finale of Scheldeprijs, preferring to sit up and roll home 27 seconds down on winner Marcel Kittel rather than risk a crash on the notorious finishing circuit in Schoten.
The Slovak's performance was in keeping with his declarations before the race, when he said that he had come to the banks of the Schelde simply to keep his legs ticking over ahead of Paris-Roubaix.
"The Tour Flanders was a hard race and I need to recover but I'm already thinking about Paris-Roubaix now, and I have to train too," Sagan told reporters at the start in Antwerp. "I had a couple of days of rest but now this race is to keep myself in condition."
Sagan finished a disappointed 17th at the Tour of Flanders on Sunday after entering the race alongside Tom Boonen and eventual winner Fabian Cancellara as one of the troika of favourites for the win. The E3 Harelbeke winner had looked on song when he made an initial selection of 13 riders ahead of the Taaienberg, shutting down a number of attacks as the move ebbed and flowed, but he was later unable to follow Cancellara's acceleration on the Oude Kwaremont and he faded in the finale.
Immediately after the race, Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio suggested that Sagan had done too much work when he was isolated in that 13-man group alongside four QuickStep riders. While Sagan agreed that may well have been the case, he added that in any case, he simply didn't have the legs to win the race.
"Races are like that. Maybe the next time I'll know how to manage myself a bit better in the finale but it would have been difficult to win anyway," he said. "Maybe I could have done a place in the top ten if I’d managed the finale a bit better, but in the end, it went the way it did."
Sagan dismissed the notion that his morale had taken a blow after falling short at the Tour of Flanders and Milan-San Remo, having finished second in each race last season. "No, I'm not down. Races are like that and I can't win everything. Sometimes things go well, sometimes things don't, and this year that’s how it was," he said.
Sagan will carry out his reconnaissance of the pavé sectors of Paris-Roubaix on Friday as he prepares for his first tilt at the race since 2011. His Cannondale team have insisted that he lines up at the Hell of the North purely to gain experience for future years, and he, too, was vague about his prospects.
"As for my ambitions, well, we'll have to see how the race is going and how I'm feeling too. We'll see during the race," he said. "It's always the same – it depends on my legs."
Regardless of his relative lack of Paris-Roubaix experience – he abandoned as a new professional in 2010 and finished 86th the following year – Sagan will surely still be a marked man if he succeeds in lasting deep into the finale with the likes of Cancellara and Boonen.
"I don't know, I'm not thinking about Sunday right now," he said. "If I find myself in front it will be the same [as any other race], everybody will know that I'm there. We’ll see."
Thank you for signing up to Cycling News. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.