Peter Sagan (Cannondale) collected a win in today’s stage of the Three Days of De Panne, which he considered a training ride towards the Tour of Flanders.

Asked if it was too much ahead of Flanders, he said that he could dial it back if he needs to. Besides, he added, “it wasn’t a true race.”

“I’ll see tomorrow how it’ll go. Last year, I was able to win the first stage and on the second day it didn’t go so well. I think to win the GC, with the third day and going all out in the crono would be throwing away too much energy for Flanders,” Sagan said in a press conference after his win in Zottegem.

“We’ll see tomorrow how it goes; however, I think it was more about good training today rather than a true race.”

Arnaud Démare (FDJ) might have coughed up his post-race energy bar when hearing Sagan. He helped Sagan’s escape group stay clear of Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and the other sprinters. He ran Sagan all the way to the line, threw his bike and just arrived short of the win.

It would have been Démare’s first win of the season. Sagan has won seven times, including two rain-soaked stages in Tirreno-Adriatico and Sunday’s Ghent-Wevelgem.

For Sagan, however, the De Panne leg to Zottegem today was just training for the 260km Tour of Flanders on Sunday.

Patrick Lefevere, Cavendish’s boss, just shook his head after watching the final kilometres in the city’s main square. He had the whole Omega Pharma army out to squash Sagan, who apparently had much more in his arsenal than he was letting on.

“Nobody can control the race because Sagan is using all the right tactics,” Lefevere told a small group of journalists including Cycling Weekly.

“He did a lot of pain to the sprinters’ teams. We tried it [to control it]. It was a good thing that [Niki] Terpstra and [Sylvain] Chavanel were in the front, because nobody could control.”

Cavendish didn’t shake his head, but he admitted Sagan is a once in a generation rider.

“I’m happy that he says that about me,” 23-year-old Sagan said. “I’ve arrived to this point from four years ago, when I was always throwing myself in sprints and in different situations. Now I see that I can win in other ways, so… Maybe he has reason. I’m very happy that I can race this way.”

Sagan added with a grin that the win today only builds his confidence for the Tour of Flanders.