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Cannondale director: Experience is the key to a Sagan win at Flanders

DE PANNE, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan (Cannondale) needs to gain as much experience as possible to win Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Sunday, according to team sport director Stefano Zanatta.

“Experience is everything,” Zanatta told VeloNews.

Zanatta leaned against Cannondale’s team car ahead of stage 2 at the VDK Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde (Three Days of De Panne). Sagan won the day before on a tough course, taking in some of the roads Ronde will cover. It helped the relatively young Sagan (23) build experience.

Sagan turned professional in 2010, but has only raced in the classics the last two seasons. In 2011, he pulled out of Ronde. He placed fifth last year.

This year, he finished second in Milano-Sanremo, saw Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard) ride free on the Kwaremont in E3 Harelbeke, and took the race in hand to win Ghent-Wevelgem.

“It’s not just how you can beat [Tom Boonen or Cancellara]. He already knows how to do it; we saw it at the Tour last year or in Ghent-Wevelgem, where top riders raced,” Zanatta said. “He needs only to keep gaining experience managing the race and the different moments, like when you need to give 100 percent or when it wouldn’t change anything to give only 90 percent. So, he still needs to gain experience in managing races over 200 kilometers. Many times he does well, however I think that he still needs experience. This comes only with racing.”

Racing

Sagan raced the mid-week De Panne Tuesday and Wednesday, but did not start the final two legs today as he prepares for Ronde.

Tuesday’s stage 1 shot through Flanders’ heartland and included some of the climbs that will be featured in Ronde. Sagan was able to test himself on those climbs and on the narrow roads.

He also had fun. Once at the front, he attacked, formed an escape group, and sprinted to the win.

“He has the desire to win, he has fun on the bike and so things come easier for him,” Zanatta said. “He’s gaining experience in all the races he’s doing here, which is going to be useful for the future. He already has results, but in some situations, he can improve for sure.”

Ronde parcours

The Ronde van Vlaanderen departs from Bruges and covers 260 kilometers and 17 climbs. Many are cobbled climbs, such as the Kwaremont and Paterberg. Those two ascents are featured three times before the Oudenaarde finish.

Cannondale is based down the road in Kortrijk during the classics season and is easily able to train on the climbs. Sagan, however, has already covered them in races.

“Oh, he’s done them many times, maybe 30 times, but it’s never enough. Every time you do it, it changes. You can hit those climbs after 150km, but it’s another thing after 230km,” Zanatta said.

“He’ll have to try to read the race, given the rivals and teammates around him. We’ll try to create the best possible scenario [and] have the guys [stay] with him as long as possible in case he needs something. Afterwards, when the best guys start to move in the last 20km, he has to be at 100 percent and have the legs to battle the others, or at least be level with them.”

Sagan is confident in the team Cannondale has around him.

In Sanremo, Damiano Caruso and Moreno Moser worked with Sagan over the Cipressa and Poggio. Maciej Bodnar escaped with Sagan in Ghent-Wevelgem. Alan Marangoni softened the field in De Panne before Sagan went free.

Marangoni, Bodnar, Kristjan Koren, and Fabio Sabatini, according to Zanatta, should be there until the last 40km in Ronde. Along with Sagan, they have gained experience over the last two weeks — experience that will prove helpful for winning Ronde.