Peter Sagan proved in Tirreno-Adriatico what many experts where already thinking: he could become the first Slovakian to win Milan-San Remo and the youngest to win the one-day Classic since Eddy Merckx.
"Like this, Peter can win San Remo," Liquigas team-mate Vincenzo Nibali told Cycling Weekly after Saturday's stage win. "He's showed, after seven and a half hours of racing, and on a hard climb, he's very strong."
Sagan won Tirreno's longest stage, 251 kilometres, yesterday in Chieti. He drew out a group of favourites on the final ramp into the city and launched the final attack.
Nibali helped him win by joining the group of five. The duo attacked and counter-attacked. He sees something similar for Italy's big spring classic, La Classicissima, next Saturday.
"We can play for the win in different ways: I can attack from far out and Peter can wait for the sprint," Nibali explained. "In a group sprint, it's difficult for Peter. However, he's showing that he's strong."
"He will have the team's help, he and Vincenzo will work together," sports director, Stefano Zanatta said. "If it's a small group at the finish, Peter can play his card in a sprint."
Sagan rocketed into cycling in his debut year in 2010 with two stage wins in Paris-Nice and one in the Tour of Romandy. Last year, he kept going, including three Vuelta España stage wins.
As Mark Cavendish discovered with his 2009 win, Milan-San Remo a different type of beast. It's a monument, the longest one, which received a nod from the governing body to exceed 260 kilometres to nearly 300.
"Going 298 kilometres is not easy," Zanatta added. The stage to Chieti "was long, but it's not San Remo. San Remo is 10 times more stressing."
Sagan only raced San Remo once, last year. He made the winning escape with Matt Goss and placed 17th.
"I hope this condition will carry me through the classics," Sagan said in a press conference. "I want to do well, you need a little bit of luck. How could I win it? I don't know, and I don't even know if I can win!"
Oddsmakers believe he can. With the Tirreno stage win, he has 9:1 odds, second only to Cavendish at 4:1.
Sagan rockets ahead for Tirreno stage win, Horner grabs lead
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