Cancellara-Sagan rivalry rolls onto the cobbles

If you hear someone saying that this site doesn’t have narrative themes, feel free to box their ears or perhaps deliver a more contemporary reprimand, such as a happy slap. Does happy slapping still exist? You don’t hear so much about it any more. Maybe the recession is dulling our buoyancy and the pastime has thus been downgraded back to ‘slapping’.

Is ‘going off at a tangent’ the narrative theme?

No, that’s more of a recurring motif. The theme is the rivalry between Swiss ball of meat, Fabian Cancellara and Slovak meatball, Peter Sagan. I wrote about it after Milan-San Remo last weekend and now I’m moved to return to the subject following the cobbled classics that I deemed to be this weekend’s focus.

To summarise, Fabian Cancellara won E3 Harelbeke and Peter Sagan won Gent-Wevelgem. With Tom Boonen abandoning the latter and showing he wasn’t quite on top form in the former, competition between these two riders could shape the next couple of weeks of racing.

E3 Harelbeke

If Fabian Cancellara were a computer game character, his special move would be ‘riding with the strength of many men’. He is an astonishingly powerful rider when it comes to efforts lasting minutes at a time (as opposed to sprints) and you often see a situation where several chasers sharing the work can’t gain ground on him in the closing stages of a race. This is what he did during E3 Harelbeke, where he attacked with about 35km to go and maintained a gap of about a minute all the way to the finish. Peter Sagan came second.


Cancellara abandoned in the feed zone, which must always be a temptation on a cold day (I’m imagining soup and hot sausage rolls, but there’s a slim chance it’s energy gels and the like). Peter Sagan ploughed on and broke the front group with something between a Cancellara attack and a sprint. He attacked with about 4km to go and gained 20-odd seconds with well-paced powerful riding. Then he did a one-handed wheelie, because he’s Sagan and that’s the way he literally rolls sometimes.

What next?

Sunday brings Ronde van Vlaanderen (the Tour of Flanders). This weekend’s races were significant, but Ronde van Vlaanderen is bigger and then it’s Paris-Roubaix the week after that, which is bigger still. The Cancellara-Sagan rivalry may develop further.