World champion Peter Sagan is not letting his early-season success distract him from focusing on Milan-San Remo and the cobbled classics
Sagan won two stages in Tirreno-Adriatico over the last week, including one ahead of the general classification men on the uphill finish to Fermo. He is the favourite for Milan-San Remo on Saturday and the other upcoming Monuments.
“What can I say, I’m just happy to have such a special moment,” Sagan said of his Fermo stage win and week in Tirreno-Adriatico. “I can only hope it lasts as long as possible.”
Asked why he is so modest, he added, “Because man can’t fly without an airplane. We’ve got to keep our feet on the ground.”
Sagan had been the nearly man in the classics and collected numerous placings in the 2014 and 2015 Tour de France without any wins. That changed in 2016 when, in the rainbow jersey from the 2015 Worlds, he won the Tour of Flanders and three stages in the Tour. He ended the season announcing he would join German WorldTour team Bora and taking another world title in Doha, Qatar.
The long-haired 27-year-old Slovakian appears to understand that the pendulum could swing at any moment, as it did when Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) crashed in Flanders and abandoned the classics last year.
Sagan avoided disaster when he served off the road onto a bike path to avoid a woman and her dog crossing the street in the Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday.
“Fortunately nothing happened,” he said. He added with a laugh, “I was on the wrong side of the road and she was on the cross-walk, so perhaps she was in the right. I was lucky that we didn’t collide.”
Sagan is the number one favourite for Saturday’s Italian monument Milan-San Remo ahead of Fernando Gaviria (Quick Step Floors), John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) and last year’s winner Arnaud Démare (FDJ).
He lives in Monaco and rides on the Cipressa and Poggio climbs “sometimes in training.” From the Poggio, the road wraps back on itself descending to the seaside and runs straight west to San Remo over six kilometres.
“[Knowing the climbs] is not vital. The important thing is to feel good,” he said. “If you don’t feel good, then you end up going over the edge and into the sea.”
Bora in the few days between Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo is camped near Lake Garda. Sagan is training with some of the team for this Saturday, including Sam Bennett, Maciej Bodnar, Marcus Burghardt, Gregor Mühlberger, Aleksejs Saramotins, Cesare Benedetti and his brother Juraj Sagan.
Sagan will have to decide with his team the best tactics, either going with the attackers over the Poggio or saving everything for a sprint. On Monday, Quick Step exploited the weaker Bora team by launching Niki Terpstra in the final and forcing Sagan to chase. Gaviria then edged ahead of Sagan in the sprint finish.
“In truth, it depends on the wind on the Poggio,” Sagan said of a Poggio attack. “For many years now, there’s been a head-wind and so it’s difficult to get away and make the difference.
“However, cycling keeps evolving and so if a rider feels good, then for sure they can get away. They need a good day.”