The road race world champion of Tinkoff rode himself into a very select and highly-talented four-man lead group in the finale of the 176-kilometre race along with Cancellara, Stybar and Gianluca Brambilla.
Through the final two of the nine gravel road sectors that characterise the Italian race, Sagan looked to be very strong, taking his turns at the front and assisting in keeping the chase group at bay.
However, on the final, steep climb to the finish line in Siena’s Piazza del Campo, the 26-year-old Slovak visibly faded, unable to even catch up with Brambilla who had spent the entire day in the two main escape groups.
Despite that, Sagan said he was content with his form.
“It is the start of the season and we try our best,” Sagan said after the race. “I’m satisfied I was able to give all I had. Finishing first, third or fourth is part of the sport of cycling.
“I was in the front group but in the finale I didn’t have the legs to go.”
Sagan must be wondering what he has to do to win the race, having placed second in the 2013 and 2014 editions of the Strade-Bianche, and now fourth. Last weekend, Sagan was second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and seventh in Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. He is yet to take a win in 2016, but it is still early in the season – and Sagan evidently hasn’t deemed it necessary to shave his legs yet
Tinkoff sports director Patxi Vila gave his view on the day’s events: “It was a really hard race today, with 3,200m of climbing it’s nearly a mountain stage, and together with all the unpaved sectors it’s a hard day out. We saw last week Peter was riding well so we rode to bring him into the best position for the final.
“Peter was looking good and made the big move on the penultimate sector to form the lead group but lacked a little something at the end.”
“Obviously we wanted to win and thought we could today, but Cancellara was the strongest at the end. We are on the right line and will keep fighting for the win in the coming races.”
Sagan stays in Italy and now turns his attention to Tirreno-Adriatico, which starts on March 9.