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Coach: Sagan unlikely to join elite monument club

By Gregor Brown • Published
Peter Sagan has two monument victories on his resume. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan should focus on winning Milano-Sanremo, but the other monuments he’s yet to win — Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Il Lombardia — would be too much, his coach said.

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team is not ruling anything out — “with Peter almost anything is possible” — but scheduling and the individual race’s characteristics almost exclude the world champion’s presence.

“He already has two or three of those big monuments that he could have in his career,” Bora coach and sports director Patxi Vila told VeloNews. “He’s missing a Milano-Sanremo, and it’ll be great when we add that one to his big list.

“Liège would be very hard. There is so much climbing. And Lombardia? That is like a mountain stage in the Tour de France.”

Sagan closed the 2018 spring campaign with fourth in the Amstel Gold Race last week. It had been a good run. The charismatic three-time world champion won Paris-Roubaix to add to his 2016 Tour of Flanders trophy.

He will next travel to the U.S. for the Amgen Tour of California and then will aim for stages and a sixth points classification title in the Tour de France. A run at all five monuments is low on his list.

Only three riders — Rik Van Looy, Eddy Merckx, and Roger De Vlaeminck — have won all five of cycling’s monuments, a list that includes Milano-Sanremo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and Il Lombardia.

Sagan would have to make serious changes if he wanted to add his name to the list.

“Peter works on motivation. He needs new challenges. For the moment, he has enough to keep focus on the cobbled classics. I’d say that he could at least try the Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège in the future,” Vila said.

“In 2019? No, I don’t see them on his schedule in the short term, but this is my take. We haven’t spoken about them ever. But why not, why not try one day?”

Realistically, Sagan would have to modify his spring schedule to manage the five weeks between Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

“I don’t think you can combined the cobbled and Ardennes classics. He would be in one of them, either you are not good in the cobbles or you are not good in the Ardennes,” Vila continued.

“I don’t think it’s realistic in modern cycling to say, ‘OK, I’ll go the whole way from Sanremo to Liège-Bastogne-Liège.’ If you are racing the cobbles then you are also racing Sanremo. That’s a long run and that’s really hard.”

Sagan never raced in Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The only time he raced the Flèche Wallonne was in 2013, when he skipped Paris-Roubaix and returned to race Brabantse Pijl and the Amstel Gold Race.

He raced twice at the end of the season in Il Lombardia, in 2010 and 2013, and failed to finish on both occasions. Climbs like Valcava and Ghisallo would likely exclude Sagan from ever joining the list of the three Belgian greats with all five monuments.

“The kind of climbs you face in Liège would be kind of OK, but Lombardia is something else with its long climbs. Sure, though, with Sagan almost anything is possible,” Vila explained.

“Like Alejandro Valverde, he’s that kind of star. If Valverde wanted to go and win cobbled classics, he could. It’s not about the potential, it’s about the focus.

“I’d say Peter and Valverde are the most compete riders and they really try to win almost every race of the year. Valverde also competes in the grand tours. Those two guys can win 80 percent of the races they participate in.”

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