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Sagan: Destiny will decide Roubaix

Peter Sagan has a zen mindset ahead of Paris-Roubaix, but it may be his comparatively weak team, not fate, that decides Sunday's race.

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GENT, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan’s Paris-Roubaix is in the hands of fate. After winning Gent-Wevelgem and the Ronde van Vlaanderen over the last two weeks, he aims for a rare triple this Sunday.

Sagan won his first monument with Belgium’s Tour of Flanders on Sunday with a solo attack on the Paterberg climb. If he wins on Sunday in northern France, he would be only the second cyclist to win the double wearing the rainbow jersey alongside Rik Van Looy in 1962. That year, Van Looy also won Gent-Wevelgem.

“If it’s my destiny to win, then I will,” Sagan said. “If not, then I won’t. Destiny will decide.”

Team Tinkoff’s star stepped off the neon yellow bus in a black version of his world champion’s jersey ahead of a training ride on the famous cobbles. This year, the riders face 27 sectors or 52.8 kilometers of the terrible farm roads over the course of the 257.5-kilometer race that ends in the Roubaix velodrome.

Destiny, or bad luck, often comes into play in the Queen of the Classics. Zdenek Stybar (Etixx – Quick-Step) looked in position to play for the win in 2013 but crashed into a fan on the Carrefour de l’Arbre sector. Last year, Sagan had a mechanical problem with only five kilometers remaining and threw his bike in disgust.

If his day goes without a hitch, Sagan is the favorite to win on Roubaix’s velodrome. In terms of odds, he is going off at 300 to win, Fabian Cancellara (Trek-Segafredo) at 333, and Sep Vanmarcke (LottoNL – Jumbo) at 700 (from PaddyPower).

Sagan spoke little in the crowed press circle on Friday. “I’m relaxed,” Sagan said. “I’m starting without any expectations.”

It may not actually be destiny, but team strength that prevents Sagan from doing what only Van Looy could do 54 years ago. His squad took a hit when Maciej Bodnar crashed in training ahead of Flanders and was unable to race. He said that it brings him good luck to have brother Juraj Sagan and Michael Kolar in the Roubaix team since both Slovakians were there when he won his world title in Richmond, Virginia, and Flanders in Oudenaarde.

In key moments at recent cobbled classics, though, he lacked his yellow guard and relied on sheer strength. That alone may leave him empty handed in Roubaix.

“Team tactics play out the most in Roubaix, that can be especially good for our team,” four-time winner Tom Boonen said after Flanders. “We’re not worried.”

Belgium’s Etixx – Quick-Step lacks a big star for Sunday with Boonen still fighting to reach his best after he crashed and fractured his skull last October in the Abu Dhabi Tour. What it does have, though, is several top men with Boonen, 2014 winner Niki Terpstra, Stybar, Stijn Vandenbergh, and Tony Martin.

“We have a strong support team that showed last weekend that they are effective in helping Peter,” sport director Tristan Hoffman said in a press release. “Guys like Oscar Gatto have good experience in this race which is important. Again they will have their roles of keeping him out of trouble and in position ahead of the cobblestone sectors. We can consider putting someone up the road again to help him later on, but this is hard and often the energy is better spent looking after Peter.”

Sagan’s history in the French monument is not as rich as it is in other races. He participated in Paris-Roubaix four times before with his best result in 2014, sixth place.