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Illness in Canada does not blunt Peter Sagan’s optimism for world championships

The three-time world champion heads to Australia with quiet optimism despite bad luck in Canada.

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MONTREAL (VN) — Two DNF’s in the pair of Canadian WorldTour races this weekend does not dim the quiet optimism Peter Sagan is packing to Australia for the 2022 UCI Road World Championships.

The three-time world champion fell ill in Canada with a bad stomach and was forced to abandon Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec. Still reeling from the effects, Sagan also pulled out of the even more grueling race Sunday in Montréal.

“I was looking forward to two days of great racing but, unfortunately, it simply wasn’t my weekend,” Sagan wrote in a note on social media. “I enjoyed the ambiance and being close to thousands of fans, but my performance wasn’t what I would have liked. That’s part of racing, on now to the next event.”

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The 32-year-old returns to the elite men’s world championships as an outsider following a few rough and tumble seasons.

The likes of Wout van Aert, Michael Matthews, and Mathieu van der Poel will carry the pressure of worlds favorites.

That’s fine with Sagan, who admits he’s still struggling to find the best version of himself following bouts of COVID-19 earlier this season in his first full year with Total Energies.

“I had some complications with COVID, and now I am healthy. I finished the Tour with a few fourth places,” Sagan said last week. “Maybe it was not the best, but it was not the worst season, either.”

Sagan will travel to Australia and hopes to find legs in time to challenge on the hilly Wollongong course for what would be a record fourth world title.

“It’s different for me on the Slovakian team against the bigger teams like Belgium,” Sagan said. “It’s always been like that. If I have the legs, I will be at the front and try to win.”

Since winning his third of three straight rainbow jerseys in 2018, Sagan was fifth in 2019 in Yorkshire and did not race in 2020 in Italy. Last year in Flanders he was 26th.

On paper, the course could be ideal for Sagan. If he’s healthy, rivals will be making a mistake to count him out.

Illness forced Sagan out of both races in Canada. (Photo: Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)