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WEVELGEM, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) found the winning formula Sunday in Gent-Wevelgem after a string of near-misses and podiums this spring.
The world champion held his ground over the Kemmelberg climb and stayed protected in the elite group that formed after the climb. He then blasted ahead of everyone to claim his third victory in the Belgian one-day race. Thus, using both his legs and his head to take the victory.
The timing was right because after not winning since January and fading early in the E3 Harelbeke on Friday, questions were put to Sagan and his Bora-Hansgrohe team.
“I did a lot of times a bad day like that in Harelbeke. After Milano-Sanremo, I did a little bit of rest, it’s Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo, then I rested a little bit,” Sagan explained.
“I went to Harelbeke like not 100-percent. I was concentrated, yes, but if you don’t feel good, what can you do? It’s about your legs, not just about your head. A lot of times it happened to me in Harelbeke. I was bad and in Gent, I was good.”
The 28-year-old Slovak won his first big one-day race in Gent-Wevelgem back in 2013 with a massive attack and solo win. He repeated it in 2016.
The 2018 title came in front of a heavily fortified Elia Viviani with his Quick-Step Floors teammates and other fast men like Arnaud Démare (FDJ), Michael Matthews (Sunweb), and Matteo Trentin (Mitchelton-Scott).
“Well, it was different today. Once, I won it alone in a break, the last two kilometers. After, I won with a small group, and this year, it was a sprint also with a, not a big group, but there were a lot of sprinters there. That’s why I’m very happy,” Sagan added.
“First, I want to say thanks to all my teammates, and to team Bora-Hansgrohe, It’s very nice to win the race like this. For sure, it’s better than to win than to lose, for sure.”
Sagan never seems stressed, but pressure appeared to be mounting for the German WorldTour team with its star seemingly off his best with the big monuments Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix on the horizon.
“Ah big pressure, ah, I think Gent is a very different race than Flanders, maybe it’s more similar to Harelbeke. Gent can be a hard race when there’s really strong wind, bad weather, but today was pretty… I don’t want to say easy, but like a nicer year than what I did here [before].”
He will travel to his home in Monaco this week, missing the Dwars door Vlaanderen, and return for another shot at the Tour of Flanders, which he won in 2016, and a first go at Paris-Roubaix.
Sagan last year fell in the Tour of Flanders when clipping a fan’s jacket at the top of the Oude Kwaremont climb while Philippe Gilbert was motoring away in a 55.5-kilometer solo victory, which was set-up by his Quick-Step Floors team.
“For sure, it’s different, already the style of races or cycling is changing, every year it’s different. It depends. Also what happened last year was a unique victory for Philippe Gilbert. Maybe it’s going to happen next time, but it was really unique,” Sagan continued.
“Maybe I felt good too, but I fell on the ground [laughs]! I’m here and I want to do my best. It’s coming and it’s OK.”