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Sagan: Make the Sanremo course harder

Peter Sagan will try to win Milano-Sanremo wearing the rainbow jersey, and says the course could be even more challenging.

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MILAN (VN) — World champion Peter Sagan wants a difficult Milano-Sanremo on Saturday. He even says he would be happier if the organizer kept in the Mànie climb or added in Pompeiana between the Cipressa and Poggio.

The Slovakian will lead team Tinkoff in the Italian monument as he seeks his first win since winning the road race at the Richmond worlds last year. If he succeeds, he would be the first rider since Giuseppe Saronni (1983) to win in the rainbow jersey.

“Via Roma or not… What changes? Nothing. Same goes for the course. You must do with what you have even if I’d like to have a Milano-Sanremo with Mànie and maybe even the Pompeiana,” Sagan told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“For sprinters, it would be more difficult. I will never be a climber, but I don’t even feel that I’m a sprinter.”

The Turchino climb, separating Italy’s rice fields from its slice of the Mediterranean Coast, is one of the race staples. Seventy years ago, Fausto Coppi escaped solo and rode to Sanremo alone for the win. Organizer RCS Sport, however, has modified its Milano-Sanremo recipe over the years.

In 1960, race director Vincenzo Torriani added the climb to the Poggio hilltop. After the descent, only 3.2 kilometers remain to the Via Roma finish line. Not content with that, the race added a climb to Cipressa in 1982 as a build-up to the Poggio. Those two hills have served as the race’s final act ever since.

Not much else has changed between the Turchino Pass and the Cipressa and Poggio. RCS Sport used the 4.7km Le Mànie climb for a short period from 2008 to 2012. It came early on, soon after the race reached the coast. Due to bad roads prone to flooding, cycling director Mauro Vegni cut it for 2013. Vegni toyed with the idea of adding a 5km climb to Pompeiana in 2014 between the Cipressa and Poggio climbs, but he never did, due to road work.

“Memories of the race? I didn’t even know of it. In the sense that until I turned professional, I didn’t even know it existed. I discovered it only in 2011,” Sagan continued.

“It’s 300 kilometers. It’s long. It’s the longest and the easiest, but very difficult to win. The key point? I do not know, otherwise I would have already won it five times! Every year, it is a different race and the weather also plays a role. [Sun, high 50s, and a slight westerly wind are expected – ed.] I’m fine with anything. I’m humble, coming from poverty, and I never complain.”

Only four world champions have won in the Ligurian seaside casino city: Alfredo Binda in 1931, Eddy Merckx in 1972 and 1975, Felice Gimondi in 1974, and Giuseppe Saronni in 1983.

German John Degenkolb of Giant – Alpecin won last year, but he is recovering from a training accident and cannot race.

“Nothing [changes with the rainbow jersey], except that it’s a great pleasure to ride with it. For the rest, nothing changes, nobody gives me gifts, nobody lets you by,” added Sagan.

“When the race is being decided, you must be lucid. Before you can feel good and then suddenly turn off. Or you may not feel that great and then like that, find the right kick. People who have never raced, they can’t understand this. I do not know how it’ll go, just that I want to win and I’m ready to adapt to any situation.”