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Peter Sagan to doubters after Tour de Romandie win: ‘I never left’

With a stage win his pocket, Peter Sagan will carry momentum and top form into the Giro d'Italia.

Peter Sagan reminded everyone the boss is still in town.

Following a picture-perfect sprint finish to win Wednesday at stage 1 at Tour de Romandie, a defiant Sagan shrugged off suggestions that he has something to prove.

“Why do I have to be surprised?” Sagan said when asked about his win. “Everyone talks that Sagan is back or something, but I never left. I am always here.”

With that, it was end of the interview, and Sagan exited stage left.

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The victory was the second in 2021 for the Bora-Hansgrohe star, who opened his account this season with a stage win at the Volta a Catalunya in March.

A bout of COVID-19 in late January threw a wrench in Sagan’s preparation coming into the important spring classics campaign. In the two monuments he raced — Ronde van Vlaanderen and Milano-Sanremo — he was in the frame, with 15th and fourth, respectively, but fell short of imposing his will on the classics.

Does Sagan have anything to prove? Of course not.

But as he knows, the victory is the only thing that counts in professional cycling.

“Every victory is good,” Sagan told reporters. “It’s better than second place.”

Hitting form just in time for the Giro d’Italia

Peter Sagan wins stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie
Peter Sagan wins stage 1 of the Tour de Romandie Photo: Luc Claessen/Getty Images

Sagan, 31, appears to be hitting top form just in time for the Giro d’Italia, which starts next week in Torino.

With a string of climbing stages on tap at the six-day Romandie tour, Sagan wanted to take full advantage of what’s likely the only chance he will get this week.

“I only had a chance today and I am happy I did it,” he said. “I wanted it for me and my teammates.”

A string of climbing stages will help Sagan sharpen his form ahead of the Italian grand tour, which starts May 8 in Torino.

“It’s a different race here than the Giro,” he said of what lies ahead. “Now it’s only going to be climbs — it’s going to be very hard for me.”

Last year, Sagan made his long-awaited debut at the Giro, where he delivered what would be his lone victory in 2020.

Sagan also completed a circle of sorts Wednesday, winning the stage in his first appearance at Romandie since his rookie season in 2010. The fresh-faced Sagan won what was his third pro victory at the Swiss stage race.

Flash-forward 11 years, and Sagan is king of the peloton, and the victory counted for his 116th career win.

The revival of sorts comes as the three-time world champion enters an important contract season.

Following some hints that he might wind down his career, Sagan is telegraphing to the world that he still loves training, racing and, above all, winning.

Speculation is swirling whether or not he will remain at Bora-Hansgrohe, or join another team.

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Sagan seems intent on keeping his spot at the top, but realized in 2020 how hard it’s going to be.

A new generation of riders is nipping at his heels, and he lost his grip on the green points jersey at the Tour de France after Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) ended his record haul of seven jerseys in an eight-year run from 2012 to 2019.

Like Sagan said, he’s still here.

It’s just getting more crowded at the top.