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Sagan shuns pre-Flanders analysis and pressure

KORTRIJK, Belgium (VN) — Peter Sagan said that he feels no pressure to win the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, even if followers expect a big win from the 24-year-old. He added that he could close this classics season without a win in the monuments because he has time on his side.

“I want to do well, but I have another 10 years ahead of me to do so. And maybe I’ll never even win one,” Sagan told the press, with his green Cannondale bike parked behind him. “I don’t care if people criticize me if I don’t win. It’s not my problem.”

The Slovak patiently fielded many what-if scenarios for Sunday’s Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders). At times, he appeared exhausted by the questions.

The attention is growing around Sagan. Since his debut in the pro ranks with the team in 2010, he has been steadily improving in one-day classics. Two years ago, he placed fifth in Flanders and last year, he took the runner-up spot behind Fabian Cancellara. Last week he won the Flanders warm-up race, E3 Harelbeke.

At 48 hours until the race, oddsmakers gave Cancellara favorite status, with Sagan in the second-best spot, at 4:1 odds.

“Too many people build the pressure around me,” Sagan said. “I just try to take it easy and have fun, even if I know it’s an important race and a difficult race to win.”

Sagan has steadily improved throughout his career. Last year, he scored consistently throughout. He won 22 times, from one-day classics like Gent-Wevelgem to the green jersey in the Tour de France. For a one-day rider with a strong sprint, the only thing missing at this point is a win in one of cycling’s five Monuments.

Those close to Sagan say that he does not feel the pressure to win. He already missed his chance in the first of this season’s monuments. He locked up after a cold and wet day at Milano-Sanremo, and managed 10th in the sprint. He has two more chances: Flanders, on Sunday, and Paris-Roubaix next week.

“The others create pressure on Peter,” Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews. “He doesn’t think about, he just keeps racing as normal.”

Sagan’s normal way appears to be heading towards success in one of the monuments. He won E3 Harelbeke last Friday. Two days later, he placed third at Gent-Wevelgem. This week, in his final push towards Flanders, he added a stage of Three Days of De Panne to his palmarès.

Cannondale’s green team for the 259km race includes seven helpers, from American Ted King to Italian Paolo Longo Borghini. Although Sagan may not feel the pressure to win, he needs to prove himself, according to Longo Borghini.

“He gained experience in the classics. In the past years, he’d go on feeling. Now he calculates and thinks about when to attack,” Longo Borghini told VeloNews. “He’s ready to win a big classic, he has the experience needed. Year after year, he’s built up his knowledge base. This year is important for him to show what he’s gained in experience and tactics.”

Sagan shrugged off all the questions in Friday’s press conference. He seems to prefer to let his legs do the talking.

“This analysis isn’t useful,” he said. “What matters is my condition and how I perform in Flanders.”