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Peter Sagan is skipping some of the northern classics in order to be ready for the northern classics that really count.
Does that make sense? It does to the three-time world champion, who expanded on his reasons to skip E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem, races where he’s won in the past, to race the Volta a Catalunya — a race he’s never started.
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The idea is to race in the mountainous, weeklong stage race in Spain in order to be in top shape to square off against the likes of Mathieu van der Poel and Wout van Aert at the classics that really matter — Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“We have decided with the team that Catalonia could be a good preparation for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, because I missed a lot of races in January,” Sagan told reporters before the start of Tuesday’s stage at Tirreno-Adriatico.
“I have worked well in the Tirreno-Adriatico and in Catalonia I want to take it a step further,” Sagan said. “Then I want to be ready for the Ronde [Tour of Flanders] and Roubaix. In Catalonia, there will be a lot of climbing and such a tough race could be good for me.”
Sagan is playing catch-up with his form following a bout of COVID-19. He was diagnosed with what Bora-Hansgrohe officials were light symptoms of the viral infection, but he was forced into a quarantine for two weeks while he recovered on Spain’s Canary islands.
That put Sagan on the back foot in terms of his fitness ahead of the spring classics, forcing him to skip Strade Bianche.
Some of wondered if Sagan’s best years are behind him, with his last monument victory coming with the 2018 Paris-Roubaix. Many are looking forward to a highly anticipated clash with young rising stars van Aert and van der Poel in the northern classics. Last year, Sagan skipped the rescheduled classics to race the Giro d’Italia.
This week at Tirreno-Adriatico, Sagan was largely a spectactor as van der Poel and van Aert each won two stages apiece.
“My form is getting better and better, so I should also be in the front, but for now I’m on a different level than them,” Sagan said. “I will try to make sure that I am up to standard again as soon as possible.”
Sagan will race Saturday’s Milano-Sanremo, the Italian monument that he’s never won.
“Who will win there? Maybe I will,” Sagan said with a laugh. “No, that’s hard to say, we’ll see how the race goes. The weather can also play a major role.”
Sagan promised he’s not done winning races, and said the rise of “VanderAert” is positive for cycling.
“Their arrival is certainly good for the sport. You can see that they want to participate in the rankings and win races. That is nice to see,” Sagan said of van der Poel and van Aert. “Am I not the old Sagan? It makes no sense to talk about that. Five years ago is five years ago, and now is now. I mainly look to the future. ”