With Swiss superstar Fabian Cancellara retired and perennial rival Tom Boonen also about to end his career, Peter Sagan began 2017 as the natural candidate to be the next king of the spring classics. Slovakia’s two-time defending world champion has proven he can be competitive in all the classics held between late February and early April—but could he step up and become a winner as consistent as Cancellara and Boonen?
The eyes of the world were on Sagan when the new classics season began at Belgium’s weekend double feature of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne.
Coming off a weeks-long altitude training camp in Spain, Sagan needed to establish his leadership of a new team, Bora-Hansgrohe, and start to create a new role in the classics. At Het Nieuwsblad, he was impressive but took on too much of the workload in a small breakaway group, and when it came to the final sprint he couldn’t match the leg speed of defending champion Greg Van Avermaet. He knew he would have to take a different approach in the next day’s Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne.