Giro d'Italia

Peter Sagan on close call at Giro d’Italia: ‘It was like it was’

Peter Sagan has yet to win in 2020 and came very close Tuesday at the Giro d'Italia.

For a rider who’s delivered such finish-line nuggets as “race is race, was like was,” and, “I do like Forrest Gump; when they told him to run, he ran, so when they tell me to win, I win,” Peter Sagan added another one to his repertoire Tuesday.

Moments after just missing his first career Giro d’Italia stage victory in a photo finish to Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ), Sagan quipped, “It was like it was.”

The Bora-Hansgrohe star couldn’t have been closer to winning without crossing the line first in Tuesday’s fourth stage. No one really knew who won until judges reviewed the finish-line tape.

“It was very close,” Sagan said. “I didn’t know if I was second or third or if I won. Everyone was on the line and I was just waiting to see the result.”

It was like it was, but Sagan earned another trip to the winner’s podium, this time to take the lead in the points jersey competition. Sagan takes over from stage 2-winner Diego Ulissi (UAE-Emirates), and now leads with 57 points. Démare moved into second, with 52 points.

“I am in the front with a few points, and I will keep trying to go like this,” he said.

Sagan is clearly hungry for what would be his first career Giro stage victory. After two close calls to finish second in the first two sprints he’s contested so far in his Giro debut, he’s hoping it must be only a matter of time.

“I did my best,” Sagan said. “A sprint is like this, a lot of times like this situation I won. Sometimes it’s like that.”

Sagan, however, is winless so far in 2020. Though he boasts 113 career victories, including three consecutive world titles, Sagan has not been able to punch first across the finish line yet this season. So far in the disrupted 2020 season, he’s been in the top five on 13 occasions, and also fell short of victory at the Tour de France, with third his best result in stage 10 and 21.

Even if he can muster a few wins at this Giro, Sagan is facing his worst season since he turned pro in 2010 in terms of outright victories. Last year, he won four times, and every other year throughout his trajectory he’s won multiple times more.

“Today our goal was to go for the win with Peter,” said Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Jan Valach. “We let only a small group go away, three riders, and then on the big climb of the stage, we put in a big effort to either drop the sprinters or at least make the race hard. Nearly all of the sprinters were dropped, except Démare and Matthews. In the finale, once again, the guys did a tremendous job, pulling hard and making it impossible for Gaviria’s group to bridge the gap. In the end, we lost by a hair’s breadth but there was nothing more we could do.”

With Démare emerging as a fast finisher, along with the menacing presence of Elia Viviani (Cofidis) and Fernando Gaviria (UAE-Team Emirates), Sagan was hoping to snag a win early to take off the pressure.

On Tuesday, Bora-Hansgrohe set a hard pace on the day’s main hurdle to try to gap the faster finishers. Démare and Viviani made it back, with Démare having the perfectly timed bike throw to win the stage.

“Our goal was to go very hard on the climb, and see what happened,” Sagan said. “The team did a great job, and after that, we went to the finish with Viviani and Démare, and it was like it was.”

What can Peter Sagan do to get a win?

“Peter gets now the ciclamino jersey, he’s in good form and in fact on the climb he was asking to go faster,” Valach said. “In the sprints he’s getting closer, so we look forward to a victory.”