Sagan nearly did so with an attack heading up to the Poggio hilltop village in his rainbow jersey, only missing out to Michal Kwiatkowski (Team Sky) in a tight sprint finish.
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“It was really exciting to see Sagan’s attack,” Bora-Hansgrohe General Manager Ralph Denk told Cycling Weekly.
“With the sports directors and management team, we decided together, if we can take a win here, we’d like to win in the rainbow jersey like an artist, not just a normal win.
“If he was able to win [after the Poggio attack], it would’ve been big, but he was second. We didn’t just want a sprint victory, but to have a victory in very good style. That was our goal.”
Sagan attacked with 6.3 kilometres remaining, 900 metres before the race reached the top of the Poggio and began the descent towards the finish in San Remo.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) and Kwiatkowski latched on behind the Slovakian, briefly pulling on the front, but putting most of the pressure on the world champion.
Watch: Milan-San Remo 2017 highlights
“We spoke about it a lot with Peter and the team,” Team Coach Patxi Vila added.
“He has to honour the jersey he’s wearing. It’s special. He’s leading cycling this year. He’s the light we are all following, the jersey deserves satisfaction. For me, once he attacked on the Poggio, that was a win.”
Denk and Vila waited for their star to arrive at the German team’s bus after the podium ceremonies.
Further along the Via Roma, Alessandro Petacchi stopped on the line where he won Milan-San Remo in 2005, and where minutes earlier Kwiatkowski had edged ahead of Sagan.
“That’s the beautiful thing about cycling. You can lose a one-day race or stage race of seven days by two seconds or so,” he said referring to both Sagan and to Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), who lost Paris-Nice by two seconds after a brave attack from far in the final stage.
“To see someone in the rainbow jersey attacking over the Poggio, and to see him making every race, that’s Peter Sagan.
“He’s shown up until now that he’s the strongest around. The others know, they see him when they are at the limit, but he’s able to squeeze out something else. You need to try to bring him truly dead tired to the finish otherwise he’ll win.”