FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Cycling’s classics superstar Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has Milano-Sanremo in his sights this year.
After winning the Tour of Flanders in 2016 and Paris-Roubaix in 2018, the Italian monument is noticeably missing from his palmarès.
“Of course there’s a Milano-Sanremo project for Peter Sagan,” Bora coach and sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews.
“The big riders like Tom Boonen, Paolo Bettini, and Oscar Freire aimed and won these big spring monuments in the recent past.”
Sagan, just like Boonen wanted, wants that crown with Sanremo, Flanders, and Roubaix. He just misses Sanremo, scheduled for March 23.
“Of course, it’s the plan. Our big period will be from Sanremo to Roubaix. That’s where the peak will be,” Vila said.
Sagan, who won the road world championship from 2015-2017, lives in Monaco and trains on the Sanremo course over in Italy when he has the opportunity.
He will soon depart for Australia for his debut in the Santos Tour Down Under. He’ll head to Argentina after that for the Vuelta a San Juan. Milano-Sanremo and the other classics follow.
For Vila, the difficulty is spreading Sagan’s fitness over the three-week period from Sanremo to Paris-Roubaix (April 14) so that his star doesn’t end the run on fumes.
Afterward, Sagan will make an additional push through the Amstel Gold Race and, for the first time in his career, Liège-Bastogne-Liège. The emphasis, however, will be on Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix. In 2018, Vila modified Sagan’s training program so he would be stronger toward the end of his classics run following a couple of seasons where he lacked a few percentage points in Paris-Roubaix.
“The nicest thing about Sanremo is that it’s almost at the beginning. If you win that, your classics season is over almost. If you win that, then you can go into the northern classics with no pressure,” Vila said.
“It’s hard to be in super-shape from Sanremo to Roubaix, that’s why you need to choose a bit. Last year, we leaned more for the cobbled classics. Milano-Sanremo was a little crazy so we don’t know if he was in shape or not, it wasn’t full-gas racing.”
Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) attacked solo from the Poggio hilltop at the 2018 edition of Sanremo and won alone — a rarity in the 300-kilometer classic. Normally, a reduced and tired group of attackers and sprinters fight for the win in the seaside town.
Sagan finished second in Milano-Sanremo to Gerald Ciolek in 2013. He was forced to brake behind a crashing Fernando Gaviria in the closing kilometers of 2016. He attacked from the Poggio in 2017 and produced a three-man sprint, placing second again to Michal Kwiatkowski. He was sixth last year.
“The whole 300km race comes down to the couple of minutes on the Poggio. You saw last year that Nibali put in an amazing ride for a solo win, but normally it’s harder and harder to make a small group to stay away,” continued Vila.
“If it goes to a bunch sprint, then the fight will be in those last meters. It is the hardest to predict, but a beautiful one to win.”
Bora looks largely the same as 2018 after a relatively quiet transfer season. However, a couple of new riders could help when Sagan starts in Milano this March. The team brought in Italian Oscar Gatto, Sagan’s former teammate at Team Tinkoff, and Jempy Drucker, who helped Greg Van Avermaet on BMC Racing.
“We have one more year of experience together,” Vila said. “In theory, we should be stronger than last year and hopefully it will all work out well.”