Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Sagan And Boonen: Rivals And Team Mates?

Tom Boonen is on fire. There's no two ways about that and with 7 wins to his name already this season (he took 8 victories all year last year) I would pen him down as my Flanders and Roubaix favourite this year. He's not the Boonen of 2005, this isn't raw power, but he is smarter this time round and his wins this year have been very classy. But when a 22 years old Slovak that's been making ripples for the last 2 seasons turns up for a training ride in the guise of Three Days Of De Panne and still ends up winning, Boonen has to be worried, doesn't he?

At 22 there is no doubt that Peter Sagan is an  incredible talent, and his future prospects look extremely bright. Currently riding for Liquigas who are not renowned as a Classics team Sagan has racked up an astounding sum of victories and has shown well in the 'pre-classics', even finishing on the podium behind Boonen in Gent-Wevelgem - but questions have been asked whether Sagan has the legs for the big classics, the team for the classics or even if he has the maturity to perform in the big classics. I'd say his victory in one of the longest stages of any race in Tirenno-Adriatico proves he has the legs for the longer days in the saddle, the same questions were asked of Mark Cavendish before he silenced the critics with a win at Milan-San Remo. I do however think Sagan lacks the team to make the most of his classics campaign and Boonen would agree with me.

Tom Boonen told the press after his win at Gent-Wevelgem, after complimenting Sagan initially, that he thought Sagan wasn't riding for the right team and that Liquigas lacked a classics mentor for Sagan to learn from. More than a statement, was this a possible hint at Omega Pharma-Quicksteps renewed interest in signing Peter Sagan for 2013? Quickstep team boss Patrick Lefevre once rejected the young Slovak rider (he must be cursing the day now!) but was rumoured to have enquired about Sagan's availability again last season. The Belgian team might just wet Sagan's appetite who himself has proclaimed a big love for the classics season stating ''I like these races because they're something different. We have three weeks here in Belgium that are different from all the other races during the year. Certainly these races can also be for me.''

Sagan admits that its going to be tough to beat Boonen in Flanders on Sunday, but on paper I would definitely consider him as a second favourite. His gutsy attacking style does play into the hands of the classics, hes shown good form so far this year and taken a host of podium finishes already, the youngster has power and determination in bundles and in this respect has an advantage over Boonen. Boonens assessment of Sagan could be all that separates the two on Sunday - Team and experience. Whatever the outcome, the rivalry has played out nicely so far and it will be a battle to the finish at both the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. This time next year however, could be a completely different story...

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