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Sagan confirms he won’t try MTB Olympic repeat, regrets missed chance at worlds

The Slovakian superstar wants to go to Tokyo next summer, but confirms he won't be repeating his mountain bike experiment from Rio de Janeiro.

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The three-time road world champion Peter Sagan confirmed that he’s leaving the off-road adventuring to others. The Olympic Games are on his radar for 2020, but unlike Rio de Janeiro, where he raced in the mountain bike discipline, he will be sticking to skinny tires next year.

“It appeals to me, but it’s too difficult to fit into my schedule,” Sagan told AD of a mountain bike repeat. “At some point you need to race to qualify, and it takes a lot of energy and preparation. Maybe again in the future. I’d like to go to the Olympics, but the course looks too heavy for me. There’s too much climbing.”

Sagan is winding down his racing season after riding to fifth at the Yorkshire world championships Sunday. The Slovakian surged clear in the closing lap to finish fifth, but he admitted a tactical miscue probably cost him a chance at becoming the first rider to win four rainbow jerseys.

“I missed the right move,” Sagan told Tutto Bici. “It probably would have been my fourth world title. I thought [the group] would have been caught and it would have ended in a sprint. I misread it. Things went differently than I expected or imagined they would.”

Sagan stayed hidden in the lead group when riders such as Mathieu van der Poel (Netherlands), Matteo Trentin (Italy) and eventual winner Mads Pedersen (Denmark) pulled away with two laps to go. When it was obvious the front group was clear for the win, Sagan counter-attacked from behind to finish fifth.

“I thought more teams would have worked differently in the final, but the weather conditions caused a lot of abandons, and the big teams were short of men,” Sagan said. “I attacked on the lap, to see how I felt against the others. I wasn’t bad.”

Sagan, who turns 30 in 2020, spoke about a new wave of younger riders hitting the peloton, saying “older riders must adapt” to the new faces making an impact. He also cautioned that things only get harder once younger riders are recognized as major threats in races.

“In the beginning everything is easy,” Sagan told AD. “Nobody knows you, nobody knows what you can do. Win once, fine. Then try to win the second, third, fourth time, and it starts to become difficult. Things change once you have won big races. Then you suddenly become a favorite, and the pressure is on you and everyone watches you. ”

Sagan had a relatively light haul in 2019, at least by his standards, with four victories on the year. That included a stage win and a record seventh green points jersey.

“I don’t see it like that [as a disappointing season]. The difference between first and second can be millimeters. It’s like that,” Sagan said. “I’m still motivated. I still have goals. I had some stomach problems early in the year, and I lost some weight. It took a while to recover, but I rode well at the Tour.”

Sagan, who a year ago said he didn’t even know van der Poel was, admits now he’s well aware of the Dutch phenomenon. Sagan said racing on the road requires more tactics than in cyclocross or mountain biking.

“There is a big difference between those disciplines and road cycling,” he said. “For cyclocross and mountain biking, you drive a full body for an hour on your own. You need experience in road races. You must use your head. You can’t always drive on instinct.”

Van der Poel, meanwhile, is winding down his road season as well. Unlike Sagan, who will take a break until 2020, van der Poel will hit the cyclocross circuit ahead of targeting the Olympic medal in mountain biking in Tokyo.