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Sagan closes cobbles campaign — without Paris-Roubaix

GHENT, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan (Cannondale) closed his cobbled classics campaign with a second-place finish at Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) on Sunday, which means he will skip this weekend’s Paris-Roubaix.

Sagan will now take a planned rest ahead of Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold Race, and possibly Flèche Wallonne.

“It’s just too much for him this year,” Cannondale sport director Stefano Zanatta told VeloNews. “We want to save his energy for the Ardennes classics, where he’s better suited.”

Sagan raced Paris-Roubaix in 2010 (his neo-pro year), but did not finish. In 2011, he placed 86th.

“It was truly another race,” Sagan said after his debut. “You can’t compare it to when I placed second [as a junior] in 2008.”

A toast to Ronde

Ted King and Sagan’s other helpers toasted to the Ronde Sunday night. Despite placing second to Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Leopard), the feeling was more celebratory.

“Fabian showed the experience that he has after 12 Ronde editions. He has a little something more than Peter, chapeau Fabian,” Zanatta said. “We wanted to race as protagonists, we rode well and Peter took second place. He should be complimented.”

Sagan toasted to second place in Ronde, but also to a win in Ghent-Wevelgem and runner-up results in Milano-Sanremo and E3 Harelbeke.

“We already told Peter [on Saturday] that what he’s done in this campaign is already more than enough,” Zanatta said. “He’s won a classic, placed second in the others and is improving. It was important for us to be players in the final and be a protagonist. He succeeded.

“It’d be different if he panicked, had a hunger knock, or was left behind right away. However, he remained there and fought. That’s the right spirit.”

’Biggest talent in 20 years’

In Italy, team Cannondale’s base and Sagan’s home for a short period, experts are debating Sagan’s decision not to race Paris-Roubaix, one of cycling’s five monuments. After all, he already placed second in the other two monuments and impressed on the cobbles.

Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport spoke to several former professionals last week about Cannondale’s decision to rest the 23-year-old Slovak.

“If I was going like him, I’d race,” Maurizio Fondriest said. “It’s true, Roubaix could be risky but if you are not a player, then you won’t believe in your chances anyway. For Sagan, who’s the biggest talent in the last 20 years, it’d be nothing.”

Said three-time Paris-Roubaix winner Francesco Moser: “Given how he’s going, I don’t think he’d have any problem on the pavé. But, I don’t want to criticize the team’s decision.”

Added Paolo Bettini: “Even if I’m one who’s never done it, I’d take Peter. He is a beast and would be suited perfectly for those roads.”

Roubaix’s roads, however, are much different from those to the north in Flanders. The cobbles, and the gaps between them, dwarf what Sagan rode over yesterday.

Cannondale wants to save Sagan’s energy, but it also believes others, like Cancellara or Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing), are better suited to hammer over the French pavé. Sagan, the team said over the winter, sits too high on his bike and would need to make too many sacrifices to have a chance of winning the Hell of the North.