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Peter Sagan eyes ‘opening weekend’ in Belgian classics

Team officials are hopeful the three-time world champion can return to form in time for the major northern classics this spring.

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Peter Sagan, who is back in the saddle after a second bout of COVID-19, is ready to race.

The three-time world champion is hoping he will be in form to race the “opening weekend” of the Belgian calendar that includes Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.

Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad reported that Sagan will put the races on his calendar, but will only make the final decision whether to race or not later next month.

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Sagan joined his new teammates at TotalEnergies this week in Spain after being hit with a second coronavirus infection earlier this month. Sagan was infected early in 2021 and got sick again as part of the latest wave of infections sweeping Europe.

Sagan, who turns 32 next week, is scheduled to debut at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var (February 18-20), and then race Omloop on February 26 and Kuurne the following day.

He hasn’t raced either race since 2017, when he finished second and first, respectively. He’s twice been second at Omloop, and won Kuurne in 2017. In 2018 and 2019, Sagan debuted his season at the Santos Tour Down Under, and then ramped up his 2020 campaign in South America.

TotalEnergies: ‘We are one of the best classics teams in the world’

Peter Sagan shows off the new TotalEnergies jersey
Peter Sagan joined his new teammates this week in Spain. (Photo: Team TotalEnergies)

With his return to the “opening weekend,” Sagan will go back to a more traditional racing calendar in 2022.

He’s expected to race Paris-Nice before a busy spring classics calendar, followed by the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de France.

Team manager Jean-René Bernaudeau believes his 2022 roster can take it to the likes of Mathieu van der Poel, Wout van Aert, and Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl in races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in 2022.

“For the Flandrien classics, we are in the three or four best teams in the world,” Bernaudeau said in a team video.

“With [Edvald] Boasson Hagen, [Niki] Terpstra, [Daniel] Oss, [Maciej] Bodnar, and leaders like Anthony Turgis and Peter Sagan, we cannot go without the ambition to win. For example, in Paris-Roubaix, we will race to win Paris-Roubaix. That isn’t necessarily what will happen, but we will be active.”

Sagan is certainly hoping so. His last major one-day victories in the classics came in 2018, when he won Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix.