LUINTRA, Spain (VN) — Three-time defending world champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) wants one more win before likely giving up the rainbow jersey later this month.
Sagan, who has won the last three road world titles, believes the parcours in Innsbruck, Austria is too hard for him to win a fourth title. His last chance to win beforehand is at the Vuelta a España.
“I like it here, warm weather and good riding with the team,” Sagan told VeloNews. “I want to at least win one stage.”
Sagan placed second Tuesday behind Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors). It was his third runner-up result in this Vuelta.
A crash in stage 17 of the Tour de France partly held back the 28-year-old Slovakian. He struggled to continue, but he managed to finish in Paris with a sixth green points jersey. He said even racing the Vuelta is a victory in itself after a hard recovery and training period.
“I think yeah, it’s an easy race, well not an easy race, but a relaxed race,” he replied when asked about the Vuelta being ideal preparation for the worlds.
“I can stay here in good weather and train with the team. I stay with the team. I can still take some points. I’m not winning, but I can try!”
The worlds course features 4,670 meters of climbing with a hard Igls climb on the main circuit. Sagan tipped Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) to win more than classics riders like himself.
This year, Sagan won Paris-Roubaix and three stages and the green jersey at the Tour. The tough worlds course is likely too much to continue his rainbow streak.
“It’s hard,” Sagan said of winning a fourth title. “It’s not obvious that I win it three times in a row and I’m going to win it a fourth time. Like everything should stop somewhere.”
Sagan began his worlds streak with the win in Richmond three years ago. In 2016, he defended in Doha and did it again one year later in Bergen. Even if the Innsbruck climbers’ parcours is too much, he will still lead Team Slovakia.
“It’s still far away and I don’t think [I] could be really competitive with real climbers in that parcours,” Sagan admitted.
Sagan will wear the blue, white, and red kit of Slovakia during the Sept. 30 event. His Bora-Hansgrohe teammates will race too. Lukas Pöstlberger will trade out the Austrian champ jersey to wear the national team colors.
“For the Austrian boys, we try to prepare them as well as possible, especially this year this year — [the worlds are] really close to Bora-Hansgrohe’s headquarters, only 80 kilometers away,” sport director André Schulze said.
“The whole team is motivated for it. It’s good to have Sagan there and in shape. Also, Peter wants to do his best as a three-time winner. The Vuelta is one of the best preparations for the worlds, given the parcours is so much climbing. The best preparation is here in the Vuelta.”
Schulze explained that the team will see how long Sagan will stay in the Vuelta. The mountains appear again starting Friday. Sagan, if he is to have his last chance as world champion, will have to strike soon.