The three-time former world champion admits the rainbow jersey was weighing on him and that the Innsbruck course had too much climbing.

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — After three years, the world champion’s jersey finally started to weigh on Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who said he is “too fat” to win against climbers like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) over a tough course like the one raced Sunday in Innsbruck for the 2018 world road championships.

The Slovak cyclist finished worlds early on Sunday in Austria — a DNF after three years finishing first. He still celebrated on the podium, however. He made a surprise visit and presented Spain’s Valverde his gold medal for winning.

“Why didn’t I win? I’m too fat!” Sagan told VeloNews Wednesday, joking as he rushed from one appointment to another after the world championships.

On Tuesday, he presented his Sportful clothing line in northern Italy and Thursday in London, he releases his new memoir, “My World.” [“My World” will be published in the U.S. by VeloPress -Ed.]

Three years ago, Sagan left Richmond, Virginia, with the rainbow jersey. He defended the title in Doha, Qatar, and in Bergen, Norway. The Innsbruck course climbed too much for Sagan.

He explained Tuesday at the Sportful release that being world champion was becoming a burden. The Italian company released a new jersey, with rainbow bands on only the arms — a reminder of his three-year reign — and with the Slovakian colors across the chest because he still remains national champion.

“I’m 80 kilos, what can I do on a course like that?” Sagan said. Valverde, in comparison, is said to weigh 61 kilograms.

“It was a very difficult day for me, but we have to be proud of this new world champion who fought for many years before winning the rainbow jersey.

“In 2003, when Valverde won the silver at Hamilton, I was already racing but I was not watching the pros, I was in my world.”

Sagan, Valverde
Reigning champ Sagan presented Valverde his medal. Photo: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Sagan surprised fans when he awarded Valverde and shook the hands of Frenchman Romain Bardet, silver, and Canadian Michael Woods, bronze.

“I rewarded him because at least so I had the chance to touch the new world championship jersey, which for three years has been with me and was starting to be a burden,” he added.

“The idea came to me because in boxing the contenders pass the belt. I asked the UCI if it was possible. I was proud to pass it over to Alejandro and he was happy about it, I told him to enjoy the jersey and take it around the world.”

Sportful presented Sagan’s line with a series of images, including those from his 2018 Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix wins.

“I made Elia Viviani cry? It was not me, he started crying. This Gent-Wevelgem win gave me morale after a difficult period,” Sagan said. “My first victory here was in the Liquigas jersey.

“Arriving [to win Paris-Roubaix] in the world champion’s jersey is special, even if I would not change a world championship for a classic. There are many champions who have never won that jersey, for example, Fabian Cancellara. Valverde had to work hard to do it.”

Valverde became the second oldest cyclist at 38 to win the road race world title. Sagan, 28, does not want to race that late into life.

“I hope not, I do not see myself going as strongly as him. I already feel tired.”