International Cycling

No strategy needed for Flanders - Sagan

2016-04-03 07:20
Peter Sagan (AFP)

Bruges - World champion Peter Sagan believes tactics will play no part in Sunday's 100th edition of the prestigious Tour of Flanders.

The 26-year-old Slovak will start as one of the favourites following his win at Gent-Wevelgem last week, alongside the in-form Fabian Cancellara and champion Alexander Kristoff.

But maverick Sagan, who rides for Tinkoff, told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper that the 255km race, with its 18 categorised climbs and 17 cobbled sections - including many on the climbs - will be unpredictable.

"Belgian races are more difficult than the others: the right strategy doesn't exist," he said.

"It's no coincidence that the record holders for the Tour of Flanders have only won it three times."

Two of those will be on the start line in Cancellara and Belgian Tom Boonen.

The latter is riding his final season as a professional and has already shown good form this year, winning Strade Bianche and coming fourth at both E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem, the latter despite crashing and losing two minutes on the peloton at a crucial stage.

Swiss Cancellara won Flanders back-to-back in 2013 and 2014 but missed last year's race after crashing in E3 and breaking two vertebrae.

Boonen is also the joint record four-time winner of Paris-Roubaix, which takes place next week, but he's won neither since 2012 and many believe the 35-year-old's best years are behind him.

His last major one-day victories came in his incredible 2012 when he also won both E3 and Gent-Wevelgem.

Since then a 2014 victory at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne doesn't make up for a failure to get genuinely close to winning one of the two cobbled 'Monument' races since 2012.

He too missed out last year due to injury, dislocating his shoulder in a crash at Paris-Nice.

Belgians won't be short of home hopes to cheer for, though, with Sep Vanmarcke having finished second at Gent-Wevelgem.

"Suddenly, I'm one of the big favourites. I wasn't before this weekend, but it doesn't change anything in my mind," said the Lotto-NL-Jumbo team leader.

"I've been working for these weeks and I showed last weekend that I'm good."

Vanmarcke, though, lacks a killer kick in the finish and would likely need to arrive alone to win.

More often than not it has been a case of close but no cigar, coming third in 2014 and finishing second at the 2013 Paris-Roubaix.

Despite Sagan's assertion, team tactics can often play a major role, with options a huge advantage.

Boonen will have 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra as a foil, as well as Czech Zdenek Stybar.

British Team Sky will also be strong with Geraint Thomas and Michal Kwiatkowski, the last two winners of E3, as well as Luke Rowe and Ian Stannard.

Sky are getting increasingly closer to finally winning their first Monument, although Thomas was a marked man last year.

He's perhaps passed a bit under the radar this year, winning the Paris-Nice stage race but not featuring prominently in the earlier one-day cobbled classics and semi-classics.

Kristoff, like Cancellara, will probably have to rely on his own powers but he was imperious last year and his first stage victory at Three Days of De Panne last week showed he's hitting his straps at just the right time.

Flanders really suits him too, having finished fourth in 2013 and fifth a year later before finally triumphing 12 months ago.

The Belgians will obviously be out in force, with young hopes Jasper Stuyven and Tiejs Benoot ready to mature into new stars, while Greg Van Avermaet, so often another nearly-man, has really come good this year, winning Omloop Het Nieuwsblad before recording a shock success at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.

And then, at De Ronde (the Tour) in April, there's always the weather factor.

Wind and rain can make the roads treacherous and turn the race into even more of a war of attrition, and that would favour the likes of Cancellara, or Kristoff.

Read more on:    peter sagan  |  cycling

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