World champion Peter Sagan (Slovakia) says that he has nothing to lose when he lines up on Sunday in Doha, Qatar, to defend his road race title. Perhaps for that reason, his rivals consider him so lethal.
The Slovakian won last year in Richmond, USA, and kept the rainbow jersey in the headlines with victories in the Tour of Flanders and the Tour de France. One year later, he presented himself at a press conference in a Slovak team polo and his long hair pulled back tight.
"The pressure's not on me. What do I have to lose?" said Sagan. "I already have one title. I don’t have anything to lose. What pressure?"
Sagan said little and grinned often. Like aggressive racing, it has become one of his distinctive trademarks.
Last year, Sagan shot free on the final climb to solo to victory. In Flanders, he won in a similar way. In the Tour, after going winless for three years, he claimed three stages. His second one came via an aggressive move in the crosswinds with Sky's Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas.
"Each moment was very nice and special, all the season was very season for me, I had a lot nice victories, Ghent-Wevelgem, Flanders, the Tour, the European Championship, Quebec, and I won the UCI ranking – the whole year was very special.”
Sagan already has a new three-year contract in the bag with Bora-Hansgrohe, rumoured at £3 million annually, so the pressure could definitely be off.
Rival teams, however, say that he is just as deadly because he can handle himself in the cross-winds and sprint to win from a small or even a big group. Perhaps his only disadvantage is the lack of team-mates. This year, Slovakia only earned three spots.
It could put Sagan on the back foot, especially if the race breaks into echelons in the first 150-kilometre stretch through Qatar's barren countryside.
"Disadvantage? I'll have less to think about," said Sagan.
"A sprint finish? What can I say? I cannot predict the future. My shape is good, but it'd be better for me if it was a shorter race!
"A lot of riders won two times, some even three times... There's nothing historical in it. That is why I am here, I want to race and do my best, we’ll see what will happens. Luck will come into play on this course."
The Worlds course so far has been marked by the lack of fans. Dutchman Tom Dumoulin called it “bleak”.
“We are 21st century,” added Sagan. ”Everyone has television, everyone can watch on TV.”
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