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Oss poised to be X-factor for Sagan in classics

The Italian rider moved over to Bora-Hansgrohe for this season and will serve as one of Peter Sagan's lieutenants.

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Could Daniel Oss be the X-factor for Peter Sagan this season?

The 31-year-old Italian is poised to help elevate Sagan in the spring classics this year after moving to Bora-Hansgrohe. Oss is already an experienced classics rider and was played an integral role last year in helping Greg Van Avermaet to victory in Paris-Roubaix.

“He really changes the team,” said Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila. “Last year, maybe we had to be on the defensive in the classics. With a guy like Oss, maybe now we can attack. It is a big addition.”

Oss was already looking strong in his classics debut last weekend at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sagan lines up for his first European race of 2018 in Saturday’s Strade Bianche. Expectations are sky high that Oss will provide an extra tactical card to shake up the race dynamics for Sagan. No longer can rivals simply mark Sagan’s wheel if Oss is on the march.

Oss brings a unique presence to the team, and complements Sagan’s already unconventional approach to racing. Oss is a keen music fan who plays bass guitar and who likes to ride onto uncharted roads as part of his off-season training program.

VeloNews recently chatted with Oss about his move to Bora, his expectations for Sagan, and why he loves 1980s punk rock.

VeloNews: How did the deal with Bora-Hansgrohe come together?

Daniel Oss: First of all, I have to say thanks to BMC. I spent five years really well on that team. As a person and as an athlete, it was a nice group. I didn’t leave because I felt bad. After five years, I wanted to find a new group and new challenges. And Peter? He is one of the main reasons to move here. He’s a friend, and one of the best riders in the world. I wanted to put myself in a new situation and in another spirit.

VN: Many are expecting you to help Sagan like you did for Greg Van Avermaet …

DO: Greg is one of the best riders in the world. Last year, it was the greatest race of the year at Roubaix. I was a big part of that. Now to Peter, he is another person. They are completely different. Not one is better, but they are very different. Greg is more methodical, and more in line with a tactic line. You can manage if something happens, but you go in with a plan. Sagan is more instinctive, more freestyle, and more feeling with the spirit. Sagan races with soul.

VN: It’s true you are quite good friends?

DO: We were on Liquigas together. I joined in 2009, and Sagan came in 2010. I immediately understood that something special is happening with this guy. A lot of young guys come in with big hopes, but he was really showing something different. He is a genius, and he has completely destroyed all the stereotypes of what a cyclist should be. He is breaking the mold, and he is destroying everything of what modern cycling can be. He didn’t know anything about eating, about training, about the climbs, but he reacted to the situation. With his mind, he knew he had to do something. Pro cycling today is so specialized, but Peter is so authentic. He hasn’t changed. His personality is genuine.

VN: What are your roots in Italy?

DO: I was born in Trento, and now I live near Garda. It’s a sporting city. In our family tree, somebody came down and we moved to the north during the war. There is some connection to the north. There is a lot of “Oss” in the region where I live. In the dialect, “osso” means bone, so maybe we were tall and skinny!

VN: Last year in the off-season, you were making some non-traditional rides around Italy. What was behind that?

DO: I call it “Just Ride.” I was sick of racing at the moment. It was too much Strava records, too much training, and too much focus on racing. I was in the bar with my friend; I want to do something different. Why not just to ride the bike and enjoy it? We are always in the hotels, racing, in the airplanes, or training. We get to these amazing places during the season, but we never can enjoy them. So I just went out with my bicycle with my bag. I would ride until the sun would go down, and would find a nice restaurant, and a nice hotel. We met a lot of cool people on this trip. The fun part was to share this with people on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The public really liked this kind of mood. I am still a pro bike racer, and I still want to perform and race. And I am serious about my work, but this is kind of a different approach. I am not tired of the bike, but sometimes I was weary of all this focus on maths. I rediscovered the love of the bike. When I was young, I was just riding my bike for fun. That’s how we all started, right? I hope to do this again this spring after the classics. I also just want to get lost in Italy. It’s part of the adventure.”

VN: That seems to link well with Sagan’s ‘Why So Serious?’ tattoo — does cycling take itself too seriously sometimes?

DO: That’s why I like Peter. He is the best representative of the new cycling. Cycling is so hard, and we are suffering a lot. We have a lot of sacrifices to make, and we are traveling a lot. You finish in October in China, and we are here in January. You have just two weeks off the bike, and then you have to go to train. Peter can be like this. It is so authentic. He is 100 percent professional, but at the same time, he can enjoy life. He can say, f—k off the program now; I want to go out to dinner. I want to see my friends. That is the best way to find balance.

VN: You’re also a keen musician; do you have a garage band you play with?

DO: I spend hours and hours playing bass. I don’t see time when I am in music. It’s a different way to enjoy something. I like music. I like to jam to get out the stress. I am not so technical, and I love the punk rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s, like Blink 182, Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers. We have two or three guys at home and we play together in a room. We play some Nirvana and make some noise. It’s just for fun.

VN: Talking about the more serious business of racing, many say Van Avermaet won Roubaix thanks to you; do you hope to bring that to Bora?

DO: I am here at Bora for that. I want to arrive in the classic in good shape. Peter will be the leader. The tactics can make something sometimes. If you arrive in a good moment and in the right position, you can do something in the classics. If I can, and there is a possibility, I will take a chance. Peter knows that. Peter is Peter, and I am really happy if he wins. And he will be happy if I do something as well.

VN: How much pressure does Sagan carry during the classics?

DO: He lives day by day. When he is there, he feels the race. He doesn’t have pressure before. Everything is on his shoulders, and he has to race to win. Of course, he wants to win, and when he’s in the race, he shows a lot. I like this kind of way to arrive to the appointment. We don’t want to feel the pressure before the race. When we are there in the race, we will perform. It’s not just because we want to, but it’s because we love to race these big races. This is what we live for.

VN: What race would you love to win?

DO: I really love Flanders, but last year, Roubaix was such a big emotion. To one day arrive to the podium at Roubaix would be something really crazy.

VN: What was it like to be at the front of Roubaix like you were last year?

DO: You don’t realize immediately what is happening. You are in a tunnel. You are only focusing on what you are doing. The recon is very important, because you know where the big moments are. All the high-level riders are the same. When you are in the mood and a big moment like this, everything else disappoints. It’s like we did the worlds with the TTT. You train, you study, you know what you have to do, you are so prepared, you don’t have to think, you just do it. When you do it, it’s like a black tunnel, and then you are at the finish line. Then only later do you realize what you did. Also I think it’s like when an artist is painting, how can you describe this? He cannot tell you how he feels when he paints a face or a flower, it just comes out. It’s the same with sporting people.

VN: Were you always a classics rider?

DO: It’s been coming for me year by year. I wasn’t born with this idea. When I was a pro cyclist, and I tried the classics, and I was like, wow, this is pure cycling. It was pure love.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.