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It’s a match made in grand tour heaven.
Sagan’s confirmation Thursday to race the “corsa rosa” for the first time in his career comes at an important crossroads for the Slovakian superstar.
Ever since his Tour debut in 2012, Sagan has largely followed the same schedule. Some early season racing leads up to the spring classics. Then there’s a short break, with racing at the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse, all before a run at the Tour. The Vuelta isn’t always in the cards, but he’s been to the Spanish grand tour and won stages, all before the world championships to bookend each season.
Sagan racing the Giro will break any hint of monotony that’s might have settled into his schedule.
Sagan’s also committed to the Tour de France, so the Giro-Tour double, with a possible Olympic run on the pavement and the worlds at the end, not to mention the spring classics to start, makes for a long season.
For Sagan, who’s won just about everything he could so far in his career, racing the Giro will present a new challenge.
“It’s going to be a very tough season for me I think with Giro and the Tour,” Sagan said. “I have to plan well but I just want to try something new.”
Finding space for the Giro was always complicated, but a few things stacked up to open the door for Sagan.
Securing his record seventh green jersey at the Tour last summer helped ease the pressure. And a Giro route unveiled Thursday that presents plenty of chances for Sagan smoothed the way.
“I’m very happy that it starts very close to Slovakia,” Sagan said Thursday. “I really like this route, right from the first stages in Hungary. I’m sure there will be many of my supporters on the route for the first three stages because Slovakia is very close to Hungary.”
The bad news, at least for U.S. fans, is that the decision means Sagan won’t be racing the Tour of California, which he’s raced every year since 2010, winning 17 stages.
Italy’s passionate “tifosi” will be the big winners, and their collective passion and fervor are sure to rub off on Sagan. Sagan has raced in Italy plenty of times, and he speaks fluent Italian, but the Giro’s fans are something every top pro will admit is something unique on the circuit.
“Italy holds a special place in my heart,” Sagan said Thursday. “In the last 10 years I have had the opportunity and privilege to compete, many times, in some of the most prestigious races held in Italy, but I always felt that something was missing, the Giro d’Italia.”
The other big winner from the Sagan sweepstakes is the Giro.
Every May, the Giro organization likes to try to bring in at least one of cycling’s main protagonists to fit into their storyline. In 2018, it was Chris Froome. Before that, it was Alberto Contador, or, like last year, Primoz Roglic.
Giro boss Mauro Vegni thrives on a good narrative to tell the Giro story every May, and having cycling’s lone rock star in the pack will provide the perfect yarn. Italy’s equally effusive press will be splashing Sagan on front pages for the entire month.
Other top riders are sure to come, especially with a balanced route that gives the time trial rouleurs like Tom Dumoulin more chances compared to the Tour’s unconventional route for 2020. Vincenzo Nibali and defending champion Richard Carapaz have already indicated they’ll likely be in Budapest for the start next May.
But having Sagan race the Giro for the first time is a huge coup for Vegni and RCS Sport.
No rider in today’s peloton reaches out across age groups and demographics like Sagan does. And with his home nation of Slovakia just over the border from Hungary, tens of thousands of hometown fans will make the trek to Budapest.
And there are even rumors that Sagan might be racing the Giro to mark the beginning of the end of his career. Sagan is under contract through 2021 with Bora-Hansgrohe.
“I always said that I wanted to do the Giro before I finish my career,” Sagan said coyly. “And maybe after the Giro I can finish my career.”
Fans will be hoping that Sagan’s Giro adventure will keep him in the game for a bit longer.