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Vuelta a Espana

Final win in rainbow stripes eludes Sagan

Peter Sagan's three-year reign as world champion will likely come to an end soon, and he was unable to win a stage at the Vuelta.

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Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) didn’t get the final victory in the rainbow jersey he was hoping for.

The three-time world champion raced for what’s likely the last time in the stripes during Sunday’s finale at the Vuelta a España — at least this time around. Sagan was second behind Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) and did not win during the three-week Vuelta despite some close calls.

“I tried my best but it wasn’t enough to win the stage,” Sagan said Sunday. “Congratulations to Elia for his victory.”

Sagan returned to the Vuelta for the first time since 2015, with the hopes of winning another stage. Banged up and battered from his high-speed crash near the end of the Tour de France, Sagan admitted he wasn’t at his best at the start of the race.

Sagan hoped to ride into condition as well as win a stage. Initially it was expected that Sagan would leave the Vuelta after stage 12, but he stayed in the race all the way to Madrid with hopes of claiming what likely would be his last to win in the world champion stripes.

Sagan came close during the Vuelta, finishing second or third six times. His nemesis was Italian sprinter Viviani, a close friend and rival in the sprints. The Italian won three sprints during the Vuelta.

The Vuelta puts an end to Sagan’s tremendous three-year run in the world champion’s jersey. Sagan’s last victory was stage 13 during the Tour de France on July 20. One more win simply wasn’t in the cards.

“We finish this edition of the Vuelta having achieved less than what we had hoped for,” said general manager Ralph Denk. “We came to Spain aiming at a top-10 position in the GC and at least a stage win. We came close to those goals but we didn’t reach them, so we can’t be really happy.”

Sagan will next race at the world championships in Innsbruck. Though he is the defending champion, he won’t wear the stripes during the road race per tradition.

Sagan isn’t considered a favorite for the climb-heavy worlds course and has downplayed his chances, but he will line up anyway in part to honor the jersey.

So, will Innsbruck finally see the end to Sagan’s three-year reign as world champion? Dutch rider Bauke Mollema said don’t be too sure.

“You never know! I would not be surprised if he is still there in the final. The course looks super-hard so maybe everyone will wait until the final lap,” Mollema said. “That final climb is very steep so it’s not the perfect course for him, but you never know with Peter Sagan.”