Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss heading Liquigas-Cannondale’s Flemish Cobbled-Classics campaign
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Peter Sagan and Daniel Oss heading Liquigas-Cannondale’s Flemish Cobbled-Classics campaign

by Ben Atkins at 3:41 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Tour of Flanders, E3-Prijs
 
Slovakian and Italian rouleurs hoping that youthful enthusiasm can make up for relative lack of experience in big Belgian races

peter saganLiquigas-Cannondale has announced its eight man team that will be heading to Flanders, northern Belgium, for the four big cobbled races in little more than a week. The campaign will begin with tomorrow’s E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, followed by Sunday’s Gent-Wevelgem, the Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde between Tuesday and Thursday, and finish with the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday, April 1st.

The green and blue team will be jointly led by Slovakian champion Peter Sagan, and Italian rouleur/sprinter Daniel Oss. Neither has a great deal of success in the Flemish cobbled races, with Sagan’s 3rd in the second stage of last year’s De Panne, and Oss’ 5th in the 2010 Gent-Wevelgem their standout results.

Both are hoping that their condition, and enthusiasm for the big Belgian races will stand them in good stead.

“My condition has shown positive signs in the races to date, but that’s not enough to contend with the best in Belgium,” explained Sagan. “You need experience, skill, expertise… basically you can’t invent anything.”

Sagan led the main group over the line, to take fourth place in Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo, proving that his condition is where he wants it to be; the uneven surfaces in Belgium, and how to ride them, is the thing that could come between the 22-year-old Slovakian and a result however.

“I like racing on cobbles, I feel I’ve got a knack for it and feel like I improve every year,” he said. “So I’m aiming to improve and gain experience. If I get a positive result, that’s good but I’m definitely not going into this with any pressure to win. There are others tipped to win: at most I can play the role of outsider.”

Unlike last year, Oss arrives at this stage of the season in full fitness, and is keen to show his form in the coming races. Unlike his Slovakian teammate though, Oss has yet to take a victory in 2010, with a second place behind World champion Mark Cavendish in the fifth stage of the Tour of Qatar his highlight so far.

daniel oss“I’m already really pleased that there haven’t been any problems in the lead-up to this point,” said Oss. “Last year was a constant battle and any hopes of a good campaign in Northern Europe vanished. Now I’m calm, I know my legs are going well and there’s still room for improvement.

“I’ve never concealed my passion and ambitions for these races but this year I’ve decided to take a more laidback approach,” the 25-year-old explained “I’m convinced I’ve got the right qualities to make my mark but I don’t want to heap on the pressure. Of course I’m aiming for a great result, but I want to focus more on performance; I want to get to the finish line knowing that I’ve given it everything and have no regrets.”

Oss obviously knows which riders will be the ones to watch, and knows that if he can follow the right wheels he might be able to get a result.

“Looking at the start lists I’d highlight [Tom] Boonen and [Fabian] Cancellara, and the entire BMC team,” he said. “Understanding their movements and following their wheels in the final sprint could be the key to crossing the line first: but having seen how Cancellara was at ‘Sanremo’ there’ll be lots of sweat and hard slog…”

Liquigas-Cannondale directeur sportif Stefano Zanatta will direct the team through all the races. Like his two stars, he is under no illusions as to his team’s chances in the races, but understands that it could be possible to capitalise on the role of the underdog.

“The cobbled races demand respect and maximum concentration,” he explained. “This is the spirit with which we’ll tackle these races together with the enthusiasm of a young line-up that’s motivated to grow. We know there are teams ‘built’ specifically for the cobbles that will dictate the rhythm and pace during the race. We have to keep pace and make the most of even the slightest opportunity.

“We’ve got riders who already know what ‘Belgium’ means in cycling and two key men like Sagan and Oss who can be main contenders,” he added.

Liquigas-Cannondale team for the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, Gent-Wevelgem, the Driedaagse van De Panne-Koksijde, and the Ronde van Vlaanderen
Maciej Bodnar, Mauro Da Dalto, Tiziano Dall’Antonia, Ted King, Kristijan Koren, Alan Marangoni, Daniel Oss and Peter Sagan

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