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The Sagan-swerve: Peter Sagan silent on classics ahead of Tirreno-Adriatico tune-up

Sagan launches masterclass at sidestepping significant questions ahead of form-chasing week in Italy.

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LIDO DI CAMAIORE, Italy (VN) – Peter Sagan doesn’t care for your questions about the classics right now.

Sagan swiftly sidestepped the question Sunday when asked how he felt for the classics after a second bout with COVID and untimely brush with flu.

“I got COVID a second time in January, and after a training camp in Gran Canaria, a race in France, and Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium, I had a little flu this week, but it is already passing and I hope to be better again here in Tirreno,” Sagan said at the Tirreno-Adriatico press conference this weekend.

Also read:

A trademark Sagan-swerve or a question half-forgotten?

Who knows. But either way, it’s a response that raises eyebrows ahead of the crux of Sagan’s first season with his new TotalEnergies team.

COVID last winter, again this January, and then a nagging bout of flu in the past week make for a series of unwanted speed-humps in what is an increasingly rocky road for Sagan.

The stories of the Slovak’s slump from one-day dominance are regularly written, and his series of struggles with illness sure aren’t speeding up a comeback.

An “opening weekend” not to write home about late February and a series of sidesteps in response to questions about the classics at Sunday’s Tirreno conference dial-up anticipation for Sagan’s rapidly approaching run through the heavy cobblestone races.

Gallery: Sagan’s debut with TotalEnergies

Sagan wouldn’t be drawn on his targets or hopes for his first classics campaign with TotalEnergies when asked a second question Sunday.

“The real season is starting now from Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice,” he said. “Then we continue to San Remo and the next classics in Belgium, I think those are the main goals for all the riders who want to do well in the classics, and that is like that.”

The clock ticks fast on Sagan’s dive into the calendar’s biggest classics at Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix in the next six weeks.

Can Sagan switch back the clocks and conquer the cobbles as he did through the middle of the last decade? TotalEnergies has built its revamped retinue around him and based its WorldTour push on triple world champ “three-Peter” repeating past glories.

The untimely series of sicknesses have pulled the handbrake hard on Sagan’s long hunt for legs long gone.

Sagan’s first five race days with TotalEnergies weren’t setting any fires, and he’s not promising much for the week to come at Tirreno either.

“It will depend mostly on my condition, we’ll take it day by day,” he said of his hopes for Tirreno this week. “I’m still recovering from the sickness.”

Sagan will want to refind his rhythm pretty rapidly.

San Remo comes less than one week after Tirreno wraps up in San Benedetto del Tronto, and the king-maker classics block of E3 through Roubaix follows close behind that.

A series of Sagan-swerves Sunday suggests he may be as unsure as the rest of us about what he can pull out of the hat this spring.

Different team, same press personality

One thing that is for sure is that Sagan’s press-room personality hasn’t succumbed to coronavirus and the chills.

Also read: Sagan back in mischievous mode in pre-season conference

Sagan has long taunted reporters, confused those on the couch, and shocked sponsors with his off-bike antics, playing ambassador in partner videos and in-depth interviews one day and awkward antagonist the next. It’s what makes the Slovak the beyond-the-sport star that he is.

Sagan’s press-room pivots Sunday suggest there is still some of his former self lurking beneath the surface. Seven days in the “race of two seas” this week will give a clue at just how much.