Peter Sagan can win a big Classic this year, according to five-time Monument winner and double world champion Paolo Bettini.
Despite going into the Classics season as one of the favourites every year, Sagan has yet to land a Monument victory. He finished second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad on Saturday, the opening cobbled Classic of 2016. Yet the Italian believes Sagan’s victory in the World Championships last year will help him in 2016’s biggest races.
“I think that to win a big race like the World Championships is very important for your head. This year is very important,” Bettini told Cycling Weekly.
“Peter is a big rider, he’s very talented. I think the win in the World Championships last year is a big, important passage [for him]. He is very strong, yes he’s won the green jersey [at the Tour de France] two, three, four times, but in the big Classics no — second, third, second, third.
“After you win the World Championships all the world looks at the jersey — this is not easy approaching the races, but I think Peter is simple,” he continued. “He’s a showman but he’s a simply guy. I think it’s possible this year, he is very strong yes.”
Bettini, who was road world champion two years running in 2006 and 2007, won Liège-Bastonge- Liège and Il Lombardia twice during his career, as well as Milan-San Remo. He was the last rider to win a Monument while wearing the rainbow jersey, when he won Il Lombardia in 2006.
The 41-year-old, who retired in 2008, noted the fact that Sagan is strong on a variety of terrain, which gives him an advantage. “Normally all races are good for him; Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix — Liège-Bastonge-Liège is hard for him — but the first part of the season, the big Classics from Tirreno [Adriatico] and the first part of February, is all good for him.”
As well as his all-round cycling ability, Bettini believes Sagan is more than just a rider. “He’s not only a big rider, he’s a character,” he said. “It’s very important [for cycling]. The only rider in this moment who is not only a rider — he’s a big rider but a big showman. The last after Peter is Mario Cipollini.”