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Sagan must concentrate on classics, not contracts, says team director

Between now and late April, Peter Sagan must concentrate on classics, not contracts, says Cannondale team director

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MILAN, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan will attempt to win a big classic this spring to add to his already impressive palmarès. According to his Cannondale team sports director Stefano Zanatta, his focus for now must remain on that, and on not multi-million dollar contract offers that are coming his way.

“If he stops and thinks about it now that means that he’s losing time because there are many details, many offers to evaluate. You can’t just decide like that,” Zanatta told VeloNews. “For him, it’s not a big problem, he knows he’ll be racing in 2015, it’s just a matter of where. Right now, he has to demonstrate that he can win the big races.”

Zanatta speaks with Sagan almost daily, and has done so since the two met at the world mountain bike championships in Trentino, Italy, in 2008. Since Sagan began racing as a road professional in 2010, Zanatta has watched him grow into one of the biggest stars of the sport.

Last year, Sagan won 22 races, more than any other pro. He took Tour de France’s green jersey, Gent-Wevelgem, and stages in tours around the world. He came up short in the big classics, placing second in Milano-Sanremo and Ronde van Vlaanderen.

This year, he has the monuments – Sanremo, Ronde and Paris-Roubaix – in his sight.

Sagan will sign a new contract in the coming months. His two-year deal with Italian team Cannondale expires at the end of 2014. Finding a team won’t be problem for the 24-year-old Slovak; Cannondale wants to keep him, and other teams are lining up.

In late January, just a week after Sagan began his 2014 season in Argentina, Italian website Tutto Bici reported that Fernando Alonso is ready to pay Sagan €3.3M a year for 2015 and 2016. The Spanish Formula One driver plans to debut a cycling team in 2015 and hired former two-time world champion Paolo Bettini to manage it.

Bettini denied the Sagan rumor but it’s clear any team would want to have Sagan in their ranks.

“He’s removed at the moment and doesn’t think about it too much,” Zanatta explained. “He gets the questions but the newspapers talk, not him. At the moment he’s more concentrated on the races, which is more important.”

Zanatta told Sagan to wait until after he rides into the Roubaix velodrome in northern France to negotiate for 2015. The team’s general manager, Roberto Amadio told VeloNews this winter that he prefers to wait until later in the year to discuss contracts. He did not respond when contacted for this article.

With his wide range of abilities, Sagan is a franchise rider. His team helpers could base their future plans around on Sagan’s 2015 contract.

“A rider has to have some smarts to put that aside and just focus on doing his job well,” said Zanatta. “[Sagan] knows the truth more than anyone else when these stories come out. It could be true or not, only he and his agent know, but for the team, the staff and his teammates, it creates a little worry, about he might leave. However the team existed before Sagan. The team will continue. We have to keep a balance that works for everyone.”