Peter Sagan is racing in the Vuelta as preparation...

After Vuelta, Sagan out to conquer the worlds

The Tinkoff-Saxo rider failed to win a spring monument this season, but a world title could make up for that.

SEVILLE, Spain (VN) — Peter Sagan won the third stage of the Vuelta a España on Monday, which is part of his plan to conquer the world. The Slovak of team Tinkoff-Saxo is racing in the Spanish grand tour with an eye on Richmond, Virginia — where he could make up for a mostly fruitless spring at the world championships.

Tinkoff hired Sagan last winter to lead its team to a monument win in Milano-Sanremo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), or Paris-Roubaix. He came up short, recording just one victory in the spring — a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico.

The Tour de France, where he won the green jersey after five second places, helped make amends. Redemption, however, would truly come with the world championships. Though not a monument, it is just as prestigious and offers the winner the privilege to wear the rainbow jersey for one year.

“It’s not like you hire a rider and he’s going to win two classics, that doesn’t work,” Tinkoff sport director Tristan Hoffman told VeloNews.

“Peter was up there, but he missed the last bit, he found his way back in the Tour of California, he got a good level and won it. OK, he didn’t win a stage, but he was very successful at the Tour.

“The worlds is a goal for him. If you can win and have that jersey for one year, and to have your name on the list for the rest of your life … Super.”

Sagan pushed his bike ahead of John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) to win in the Málaga stage Monday. Tuesday, he finished second only to Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in an uphill finish.

He could pick up a few more wins, but he likely will not reach Madrid where the Vuelta ends September 13. The team will not say it, but he is due to drop out early to relax for the Richmond worlds on September 27.

“I come here mostly for preparation, to do some race kilometers,” Sagan said. “Then I’ll see how it’s going.”

“He was talking about racing the Tour of Colorado and those races, but then we said, ‘We also need you in the GP Plouay, Hamburg … ‘ We looked at the Vuelta again, and it had opportunities for him,” Hoffman added.

“The worlds has been the goal for Peter for many years, the parcours fits him, he loves America. After the Vuelta, he’ll probably go directly there and prepare. He’ll probably also race the team time trial one week beforehand.”

Sagan’s only problem is that the Slovak national team is not deep in talent. Hoffman, who will not be a director for Sagan at the worlds because of national teams, does not see it as a limiting factor.

“There will be other countries with stronger teams,” Hoffman said. “Peter is good at positioning and hiding. And in the final, it’ll be man against man.”

The Vuelta continues Thursday in southern Spain with a small uphill finish. On Friday, it climbs to its first high-mountain finish at La Alpujarra. There will be more chances down the road, as the race travels east and then north, for Sagan.