FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan received criticism for missing opportunities in Milano-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders, but he had Paris-Roubaix in his sights all along for 2018.
Sagan’s coach and team Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila modified Sagan’s training to make sure he had the “shine” he needed for the French cobbled monument last Sunday.
The world champion won the race with a solo attack from 55 kilometers out and a sprint ahead of last remaining escapee Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale) in the Roubaix velodrome.
“The biggest goal of the year was Paris-Roubaix,” Vila told VeloNews. “It was the classics, but especially Paris-Roubaix. It’s the one that he likes more. And that the team likes more. That was the reason why we just focused on Paris-Roubaix.”
Sagan explained the same on the eve of the race. Paris-Roubaix, he said, is the “most important classic from the first part of the season.”
When Sagan was a child in Slovakia, it was the bad cobbled roads of Northern France that drew his attention, not the step climbs and cobbled sectors of the Tour of Flanders. Besides, he had already won the Belgian monument in 2016.
Vila worked with Sagan over the offseason to fine-tune certain aspects of his training, which remain top secret, and Bora decided to delay the start of his classics campaign. Instead of racing the opening weekend at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Sagan would depart later with the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race that leads into Milano-Sanremo. This also allowed him to continue through the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday, in which he placed fourth.
“It was more about some of the changes we made in the last four to five months, just to be 120 percent that Sunday,” Vila said.
“Every year in Roubaix, he didn’t really have that shine that he needs in the legs so we made some changes in the last five months to arrive to Flanders and Roubaix with that shine. But not just in Flanders.”
Sagan and his team could not manage to finish better than Quick-Step Floors in the Tour of Flanders, but Sagan said he was happy with his performance. He must have known that he was approaching that 120 percent marker. However, critics began to wonder since Sagan failed to win a big one-day race in 2017, while in 2018 he had only won Gent-Wevelgem.
“I wouldn’t say we were panicking, but we were not able to race [together]. At some point we were missing that real team spirit that you normally need in the key moment of the race,” Vila continued.
“That was something that we had to fix for Roubaix. And we did it. We really found it for the whole race, for 257 kilometers. That was a big part of the change, in Peter’s race. It started with the first Rüdiger Selig, Andreas Schillinger, Juraj Sagan, Marcus Burghardt, then the end, Daniel Oss and Maciej Bodnar. Everyone, we raced like a team and we saw the result.
“It was not panic that we had, but we didn’t get out what we were capable of. We were stronger than what we were showing, it was frustration more than panic.”
Sagan made sure the entire team went back to the squad’s base in Roeselare, Belgium, after the Roubaix victory instead of dispersing on already booked flights. Management quickly changed all the reservations and the hotel staff ordered extra beer.
“I didn’t have time to speak with him for long after the win, but Paris-Roubaix was something he was aiming for, for sure,” said Vila.
“It’s another step forward as a bike rider, and for his already star status. It’s another step to make the Sagan legend even bigger.”