World champion Peter Sagan still lacks his first win in the rainbow jersey. It is not as bad as last year, when he went nine months without a victory, but the expectation is growing.
Team Tinkoff's Sagan placed second three times so far this year: once in San Luis, once in the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and once in this week's Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy. When Steve Cummings (Dimension Data) won on Saturday, he was close again in seventh, but still seemingly light-years away.
Sagan stepped off the podium in the red points jersey and lent his bike against a barrier for a team helper to attend. In central Italy, where clouds have hovered for most of the week, the signs do not look good.
"Even if I'm not the world champion, it's always hard to win," Sagan said. "Like last year? Yeah, you can see in the last two years, it's always harder and harder. If I can make a comparison, I don't know, but five yeas ago, stages like this would've arrived in a sprint for me."
Watch: Essential guide to Milan-San Remo
Sagan's star status makes flying under the radar in races impossible, now he wears a rainbow target as world champion. Those rainbow stripes stand out, he said, even if in Tirreno-Adriatico this week he wears the red points jersey.
"A win always is good, but I'm not here and getting down on myself. I think that it's not my fault that we weren't able to do the sprint [on Saturday]. It's hard against all the rest."
He leads the points competition in Tirreno-Adriatico and wears the red points jersey. Any victory photograph, he said, would show him not in his rainbow jersey, but the race’s red one.
"I thought about that, too. I thought, if had my first win and in the red jersey, and it's better to win than not too."
Sagan last won in Richmond, Virginia, in the World Championships. Sports Director Lars Michaelsen told Cycling Weekly that if had the winning formula, they would already be using it.
"Patience, patience, patience," Michaelsen added. "Peter would like to win whatever race he starts in, a big one would be nice, but one in a less important would also be nice. A victory in Tirreno would be perfectly nice, as well."
A victory would boost Sagan's confidence with the classics on the horizon. Milan-San Remo starts in one week, on Saturday. The E3 Harelbeke, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix follow. Michaelsen said, "I think every bike rider needs to win every now and then."
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