“We have high expectations this year, but we will see because we are talking about races, cycling, and he’s a human being,” Russian team owner Oleg Tinkov said.
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“I hope he’s going to win two or three classics. If he doesn’t, I’ll be very disappointed, but I’m not going to kill him!”
Tinkov laughed, but since he is paying Sagan €4m a year then he might want something in return. He signed Sagan over the winter from team Cannondale, which was closing its doors, for three years.
The 25-year-old Slovak pushes off today in the sand-swept Persian Gulf state with riders like Bradley Wiggins. The first stage finishes at Sealine Beach.
He shot to stardom with team Liquigas/Cannondale and began winning across the globe in one-day races and the Tour de France, with stages and three times the green jersey. The only events that have eluded him are the monumental classics Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
He has come close: fourth in San Remo, fourth in the Ronde in 2012 and second in both races in 2013. Sagan appeared ready to take one them in 2014 and join a select group including Fabian Cancellara (Trek) and Tom Boonen (Etixx), but slipped backwards with 10th in San Remo, 16th in the Flanders and sixth in Roubaix. It was not great given his “Saganator” status.
“What does he need? It’s all together, legs and luck. It’s both,” Tinkov said.
“Like Alberto Contador, who had the legs to win the Tour de France last year, but no luck. Or sometimes you can have as much luck as possible, but no legs.”
Switching from an Italian to a Russian/Danish team, Sagan will be able to draw on experience. team manager Bjarne Riis helped Cancellara to some of his greatest wins, including San Remo and the cobbled Flanders and Roubaix classics.
Riis is helping Sagan with tactics and bike positioning, and coach Bobby Julich with attacks.
“I want to do my best in the classics. I’m happy to be in the big team and to have the guys supporting me,” Sagan explained.
“Some things they changed in my preparations. It’s always different because I changed my team, the group around me… everything. They made some tweaks. Bobby’s helped me to simulate the classics, the attacks.”