It’s a bit tiresome to talk about the “curse of the rainbow jersey” each season, but let’s face it, Peter Sagan is ready to notch his first victory of 2016, and E3 Harelbeke looks like a fine opportunity.
“E3 Harelbeke is a completely different race to Milano-Sanremo, but I believe that finally everything will unfold in my favor,” Tinkoff’s leader said in a team statement. “This race will not be easy for the sprinters, and the profile of E3 Harelbeke suits me more — I showed this in winning the race in 2014.”
Sagan looked ideally positioned in last Saturday’s Italian monument, sitting on the wheel of Etixx – Quick-Step’s newest sprint talent, Fernando Gaviria. But disaster struck in the sprint — Gaviria, the newly crowned track omnium world champ, touched a wheel and crashed. We never got to see how Sagan would stack up against his spring rivals after almost 300km of racing at Milano-Sanremo. At least he didn’t hit the tarmac as well.
But really, the cobbled climbs of Flanders (and there are 15 in E3) are an ideal playground for the Slovak’s aggressive style of racing. He won Gent-Wevelgem in 2013 with a fierce attack and took a similar approach to win the rainbow jersey in Richmond last fall. Sagan doesn’t have to be alone to win either. He took the flowers at the 2014 edition of E3, out-sprinting Niki Terpstra, Geraint Thomas, and Stijn Vandenbergh.
“As well as the performance, a smart head will also undoubtedly play a key role. There will be very strong competition, and we obviously cannot underestimate anyone,” Sagan continued. “However, I know that I can count on a strong team around me. I’m looking forward to this race.”
If the world champ is geared up for a race, that means we can look forward to a great showdown as classics season comes into full bloom, curses — be they real or imagined — aside.
Tinkoff roster for E3 Harelbeke
Maciej Bodnar (Pol)
Adam Blythe (GB)
Oscar Gatto (I)
Michael Gogl (A)
Jay McCarthy (Aus)
Juraj Sagan (Slo)
Peter Sagan (Slo)
Nikolay Trusov (Rus)