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Coach: With or without rainbow jersey, Sagan’s a marked man

The Slovakian will race 2019 in a team kit, rather than the world champ's jersey, after a three-year run in the rainbow bands.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The pressure remains on Peter Sagan even without the rainbow jersey in 2019, says his Bora-Hansgrohe team.

Sagan will race without the rainbow jersey for the first time since 2015. He won the road world title that year and successfully defended it the next two seasons.

The team at a camp this week is planning his 2019 goals: the classics, the Tour de France’s green jersey, and the world championships in Yorkshire.

“Peter’s a marked man even without the rainbow jersey,” Bora coach and sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews.

“The pressure is still the same. The jersey is always the reference in the race, but so is Peter. You can see the rainbow jersey better so it’s harder to race with it, but the main rivals know Peter, so it’s basically the same without it.”

The 28-year-old Slovakian could not contend on the climbers’ course in Innsbruck, Austria, this September and was unable to keep the rainbow jersey that he wore for the last three years. He laughed and said that he was “too fat.”

“Not that much changes for 2019 without the rainbow jersey because he’s already a big star of cycling,” Vila added. “It didn’t really change that much for him to have the rainbow jersey because he’s already marked.”

In that jersey, Sagan blasted clear from the final cobbled Paterberg climb to win the Tour of Flanders in 2016. This spring, he launched a powerful, massive solo flyer to catch the final remaining escapee and take the Paris-Roubaix title in the velodrome.

This week, the German team meets in Spain for the first of its pre-2019 camps. Most of Sagan’s season is mapped, but details will be finalized. The first target is the classics: Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix.

He is training, and will race 2019, with the green and black team top mixed with his national Slovakian stripes. He starts in Australia’s Santos Tour Down Under in January and continues to the Tour de San Juan in Argentina.

“I think in general it doesn’t change that much for Peter from season to season, the last two years, it’s basically been the same in all the aspects,” Vila said. “I think 2019 will be more less the same: fans waiting hours at the bus and the media attention around ever big race.

“At the camp, we are looking at the race calendar, setting it up properly, focusing on the races, the structure of the team in the races and the altitude camps in between.

“We have a similar team to last year and also the races will be mostly the same. It was a good year for us, so we are not going to make so many changes.”

Sagan joined the team in 2017 and recently extended his contract through 2021. In 2018, the top brass fine-tuned several aspects of the squad so he could win Paris-Roubaix and another green jersey at the Tour de France. In 2019, the team makes a small but potentially significant adjustment to Sagan’s classics group by bringing on board Oscar Gatto (from team Astana) and Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing).

“He’s a classics rider, so the goals are almost the same every year: Sanremo, Flanders, and Roubaix,” explained Vila. “Then after the Tour and stages and the green jersey.”

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