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Boonen: Sagan should keep his mouth shut

Tom Boonen criticizes Peter Sagan for comments after Sunday's Tour of Flanders, saying he "must keep his mouth shut."

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Speaking on Belgian TV show “Extra Time Koers,” Tom Boonen criticized Peter Sagan for his comments after Sunday’s Tour of Flanders, saying the three-time world champion “must keep his mouth shut.”

Boonen, three-time winner of Tour of Flanders, was responding to Sagan’s complaints that other teams were too concerned with marking him than racing for a win.

“I think the season will still continue and it’s hard to race in my position in the group. Also, if the other riders don’t wake up, it’s going to be like this,” Sagan, winner of the 2016 Tour of Flanders said.

“Quick-Step did a beautiful race, I just think that the other teams didn’t respect the situation and collaborate. It’s not just me that they need to beat.”

Sagan went on to finish sixth Sunday, while Quick-Step’s Niki Terpstra rode away to a solo victory.

Behind in the chase, Terpstra’s teammates Philippe Gilbert and Zdenek Stybar marked their rivals. Sagan put in one desperate effort to bridge up to the leader, attacking on the final trip up the Paterberg. However, the Bora-Hansgrohe star gave up his solo chase after a few kilometers alone. Mads Petersen (Trek-Segafredo) stayed away to finsh second behind Terpstra with Gilbert sprinting to third.

Now retired from pro racing, Boonen admitted that his former rival Sagan is very talented, but he cautioned Sagan against sitting in the wheels and later accusing rival teams of not working hard enough.

“He is always the one drafting. He comes forward once and then waves with his hand,” Boonen said.

“He is a hugely good rider. But he should not say things like that.”

This isn’t the first time Sagan has griped after a race this spring. After E3 Harelbeke, he accused rivals of toying with him as Terpstra rode to a solo victory, a sign of things to come in Flanders.

“I saw some of the guys playing games with me also. Like, ‘Are you going to pull?’ Then they attack. But OK, it’s going to be better,” Sagan said after E3 on March 23.

Sagan’s coach Patxi Vila toed the line in an interview after Flanders, emphasizing that he felt Sagan was being marked more closely than ever.

“He’s equal [in fitness to the last two seasons] I would say, perhaps even better this year,” the Bora-Hansgrohe sport director said.

“But year by year, it’s harder for him to win. It’s harder to win with three world titles than with two, or with two than one.”

Sagan will have one last chance at a classics victory this spring in Paris-Roubaix Sunday, a race where he’s never finished on the podium.