Can a three-time world champion really fly under the radar? Is it really possible that the media buzz isn’t on Peter Sagan?
That seems to be the case — a situation that will play in Sagan’s favor when he lines up as a former winner of the Tour of Flanders, or as the locals prefer, The Ronde.
Cyclocross stars Wout van Aert and Mathieu van der Poel are getting all the attention this week — and rightly so — but you have to figure Sagan is loving this, just relaxing out of the spotlight, getting his mind and body ready for the helligen.
“He’s calm. He’s following his own path and he’s ready for what’s coming up,” said Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Jan Valach. Yup, let those cross kids deal with the expectations and media stress.
It’s almost funny and odd that both Sagan and CCC’s Greg Van Avermaet aren’t getting the big headlines, pre-Flanders. Sure, they’re in the group of ten guys listed in every preview who could win this Monument. It’s just so quiet ….
The prevailing sentiment seems to be that there is no outright favorite -although there is an outright team in Deceuninck-QuickStep, who have plenty of cards to play in Zdenek Stybar, Bob Jungels, Yves Lampaert and Philippe Gilbert.
Hopefully, this level playing field for the major contenders who lead to a more open race, with a higher degree of risk-taking and improvisation. Then again, evenly matched is another way of saying everyone arrives at the finish together, all bunchy.
The last thing you want if you’re hoping to win Flanders is a calm and collected Sagan, uninterrupted and far from annoyances. He now has the ideal atmosphere in which to finish his preparations.
The vision I have is that Sagan is going to explode the race but Valach had a more musical metaphor in mind for his star rider. “Crescendo, in one word. He’s improving. Like last year, he’s getting better and better with each race, and by the Ardennes he was really very strong. We’re expecting something similar this year,” said Valach.
Either way, look out. We’re going to get a major detonation or some killer music or a crash.