FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) wants to be back in his familiar rainbow colors as soon as possible.
The Slovak three-time world champion finished his first race of the 2019 season Sunday, his first race since seeing Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) win the 2018 worlds in Innsbruck. Although he didn’t have his customary world champion’s kit, he also wasn’t forced to sport his Bora-Hansgrohe team’s green and black colors, because he remains the Slovak national champion.
“Well, the Slovak champion jersey that I have now isn’t that different!” Sagan told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Sagan’s jersey remains in white, but with the blue and red national colors of Slovakia across his chest instead of the rainbow bands of a reigning world champion.
“I’m happy that Valverde is now the world champion. He’s a great champion with a fantastic career. But it is clear that I will try to retake it as soon as possible.”
He finished second to Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) in the Tour Down Under’s opening criterium in Adelaide. A late crash that split the peloton may have kept him from winning the race a second year in a row. Regardless, he admitted that Ewan is faster on a course like the flat one in Adelaide, South Australia.
Sagan holds the record for worlds wins in the road race, three, along with four other cyclists, Alfredo Binda, Eddy Merckx, Oscar Friere, and Rik van Steenbergen. If he wins again, he would be the only man to earn four world titles in that event. However, the worlds this season in Yorkshire, England, come after many months and races.
“It is a distant goal. Before that, there are so many other objectives, and how can I know now what my shape will be like before the Yorkshire worlds?” Sagan said.
“On paper, it is much more suitable than the last one, but to win a worlds, so many things must happen together: feel good, be lucky. We’ll see later. ”
Sagan won Paris-Roubaix and three stages in the Tour de France, as well as a sixth career green points jersey last 2018 season. He went into worlds in Innsbruck with top form coming from the Vuelta a España. However, the mountains and number of climbing meters suited lightweight cyclists like Valverde, and the other men who made the podium, Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale), and Michael Woods (EF Education First).
In Adelaide, Sagan is focused on building up for the classics from late-March through April. His aim is to win one of the three spring monuments: Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, or Paris-Roubaix. Milano-Sanremo is still missing from Sagan’s rich palmarès, as he won Flanders in 2016 to go along with his 2018 cobblestone trophy earned in Roubaix.
“Of course there’s a Milano-Sanremo project for Peter Sagan,” Bora coach and sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews last month.
“Our big period will be from Sanremo to Roubaix. That’s where the peak will be. The nicest thing about Sanremo, if you win that, the pressure is off for the northern classics.”
Sagan lives down the road from the Sanremo finish, west across the border in Monaco.
“Do you know what? I would really like to win all three [in 2019], but, practically, it’s impossible,” said Sagan in Adelaide.
“They are important in the same way. Sanremo is the one closest to where I live and it would be nice.”
After the classics, Sagan should race the Tour of California in May and the Tour de France in July. The worlds this year is scheduled for September 29, starting in Leeds, England and finishing in Harrogate.