SAITAMA, Japan (VN) — When a reporter asked him Friday about his plans for next year, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) said nothing changes with regard to how he approaches each season.
“What do you want to talk about? My objectives? Always the same,” he said. “From the start of the season, it’s the classics, then the Tour de France, and then after, we will see.
But Saturday he expanded on that. The truth is that Sagan enters the offseason coming off not just the best 12 months of his career but one of the most epic years the sport has ever seen.
Seemingly everyone, including his team owner, Oleg Tinkov, spent most of 2015 dwelling on his propensity for finishing second in big races. But Sagan finally put it all together at the 2015 world championships, then tore through a 2016 season that saw him win the Tour of Flanders, wear yellow at the Tour de France, go home with a fifth straight green jersey, and finish it all off with a second consecutive world championship victory in Doha.
“It’s a big surprise,” Sagan said. “I never thought I could win the world championships again.”
So as much as he would like to say he enters every season the same way, that’s not really possible when he’s ending this season as the best and most popular rider in the sport.
Still, Sagan seems intent not to view himself or his career through the lens of 2016, insisting that while people’s opinions of him and the way they approach him may have changed, his own opinions and approach will not.
“Maybe next year I’ll go slow and no one will speak about good years or bad years,” Sagan said Saturday evening, after winning the Saitama Criterium, a scripted exhibition race held on a three-kilometer urban circuit outside Tokyo. (Sagan, Sky’s Chris Froome, and Orica – BikeExchange’s Adam Yates — wearing the green, yellow, and white jerseys they won at this year’s Tour de France — rode off the front with Japanese rider Sho Hatsuyama, of the Bridgestone Anchor team, with three laps remaining.)
“Yes, before I got a lot of second places,” he continued. “But from second to first is a very small distance. So my race schedule stays the same. Maybe this year I won some more important races, like Flanders, stages at the Tour de France, the world championships again. So it seems like an unbelievable season. But maybe I just had much more luck this year.”