KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan‘s post-Flanders complaints fell on deaf ears, especially in a dominant team like Quick-Step Floors that is focused on Sunday’s Paris-Roubaix. In fact, some in the Belgian squad view him as less of a threat than his world championship jersey would suggest.
“For me, Sagan is a great rider and champion, but maybe not as strong as he was last year,” said Iljo Keisse, who will be part of Quick-Step’s seven-man team in Paris-Roubaix.
Quick-Step presented its star team Thursday in Kortrijk: Niki Terpstra, Philippe Gilbert, Zdenek Stybar, Yves Lampaert, Keisse, Florian Senechal, and Tim Declercq.
Gilbert won the Tour of Flanders in 2017 and the world championship in 2012 and knows what it means to be the most watched rider in the bunch, like Sagan is in the classics.
“It’s like this in every race, you try to win, and sometimes you lose. There is only one winner, and he is the only happy guy in the bunch,” Gilbert said.
“I wouldn’t say anything [if I was Sagan]. I was already in that situation in 2011 when everyone was riding against you. But it’s that way, you just have to be smarter and stronger and make it happen.”
Niki Terpstra, winner of the Tour of Flanders on Sunday, advised Sagan to save his energy for Paris-Roubaix this Sunday.
“We look at all of our rivals, and we do our own race,” Terpstra said.
“Of course, we look at Peter Sagan, he’s world champion. He’s a pretty good rider. Of course, we look at him. He’s one of the favorites on Sunday.
“There’s a big list, but of course, he’s there. It’s cycling. If someone closes the gap for Peter, then maybe Peter will win the race. So what’s in it for the other? That’s cycling, sometimes it’s also a game of chess.”
Terpstra won on the heels of an attack by Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) in the Tour of Flanders. He attacked free at 26 kilometers and was only seen again on the podium in Oudenaarde, where he lifted the winner’s trophy.
Sagan once back at the team bus said, “The other teams didn’t respect the situation and collaborate. It’s not just me that they need to beat. We are in 200. Like this, Quick-Step will go and win all the races.”
The three-time world champion and Flanders winner from 2016, was left behind with Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Sep Vanmarcke (EF Education First-Drapac), Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal), and others.
Defending champion Van Avermaet also goes into Sunday as a Roubaix favorite. However, Keisse is unconcerned.
“In every interview, Van Avermaet says, ‘I’m good, I’m better than last year,’ but you see in the races that he’s also suffering and he doesn’t have his teammates around him. You win the race in the race and not after the race in the interviews.”