Sagan doesn’t like how Van Avermaet races smart

Peter Sagan criticizes Van Avermaet's tactics in pivotal Tirreno stage 6, but really, he should be learning from the winner instead.

The Tom Boonen/Fabian Cancellara rivalry will soon be history, but don’t worry: Peter Sagan and Greg Van Avermaet are primed to feed cycling’s hunger for controversy and polemics. BMC’s Belgian won Tirreno-Adriatico by merely one second on Tuesday, and that didn’t sit well with the world champ on Tinkoff, who was on the wrong side of that single tick of the clock.

In the simplest terms, Van Avermaet rode a smart, cagey race in stage 6, beating Sagan in the sprint (again), and securing just enough time to keep the overall title at the end of Tuesday’s TT.

Sagan cried foul, contending that his rival should have worked harder in the surprise eight-man break that won the day. “Greg [Van Avermaet] was undecided on swapping turns or not. Eventually he chose to keep his strength for the sprint finish,” Sagan said Monday. “But it was Stybar who had good reasons for not riding at the front, not Greg!”

Sagan’s half right — Sybar held the blue jersey and needed to fight for it — but both he and the Czech had two teammates apiece to drive the break. Sure, Michal Kwiatkowski, the move’s lone Sky rider, took a few pulls, but that doesn’t mean it was a smart thing to do.

“Yesterday I decided to not pull in the breakaway but that’s not my usual way of racing, it was a decision due to the circumstances with my teammates Tejay van Garderen and Damiano Caruso at the back,” said Van Avermaet. And really, discounting those two designated GC leaders, the eventual winner still had little reason to pull. He faced two teams that outnumbered him threefold each and included dangerous riders like Sagan and ace sprinter Fernando Gaviria, who already had a Tirreno win to his credit.

“I’ve got mixed feelings,” Sagan said after the Tirreno time trial. “I’m more bitter about yesterday’s stage. The way Greg Van Avermaet rode it is certainly not my style of racing. He says he had teammates at the back, but I also had teammates at the back, and so did Etixx – Quick-Step.”

No, clearly that is not Sagan’s style of racing because, discounting his brilliant worlds win, he usually ends up second place — perhaps he could actually learn something from Van Avermaet’s tactics.