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Sagan says heat, hills too much too soon

A challenging course, with two hilltop finales, at next week’s season debut at the Santos Tour Down Under means that Sagan will be only revving up his engine ahead of more important goals this spring.

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — World champion Peter Sagan is tan, rested, but not quite ready to drop the hammer.

A challenging course, with two hilltop finales, at next week’s season debut at the Santos Tour Down Under means that Sagan will be only revving up his engine ahead of more important goals this spring.  Stage 1 is Tuesday from Unley to Lyndoch.

“To win? I don’t think so. There are some difficult stages,” Sagan said Saturday. “My goal is not to crash, and come out of this race in good shape. It’s the first race, good weather, and it’s already important to take the race rhythm in the legs.”

Well, at least that is what he is saying. Knowing Sagan, he is sure to try something. It was back at the 2010 Tour Down Under that the then-20-year-old Slovakian made his neo-pro debut, riding into breakaways at the pre-race criterium and again on the Old Willunga Hill climbing stage, two performances that gave everyone a hint of just the kind of a rider that Sagan was. Flash forward seven years, and Sagan is back in Australia, and he’s emerged as one of the sport’s superstars, debuting in a new team with his second straight season in the rainbow jersey.

“I am always relaxed,” Sagan laughed when asked if he felt any pressure with the stripes yet again. “It is a pleasure to wear the rainbow jersey.”

Sagan has been in Australia for nearly three weeks, chasing warm weather to train ahead of the 2017 season. Fans and media have been tracking Sagan’s exploits around Australia. He skipped out a few days to visit a friend in Sydney, but has been spotted riding around the Adelaide Hills.

“I saw a koala and a kangaroo,” he said. “And a dead snake and some lizards …”

“I am not planning too much in my life. It’s one more year in the world champion jersey. A lot of things can happen this season, and I am focusing on the first part of the season,” he said. “I have been here almost all of January in Australia. I did a month’s rest without the bike, and I have started this season like every year. The first part of the season is important, and then we will think about the rest.”

With his move to Bora-Hansgrohe this season, Sagan takes firm control of his own destiny, with an entire team built around him. After the Tour Down Under, he’ll return to Europe with another training camp in Spain before his spring campaign, with confirmed stops at the opening weekend in Belgium, Strade Bianchi, Tirreno-Adriatico and a full schedule from Milano-Sanremo to Paris-Roubaix.

Beyond that, Sagan didn’t want to give away too much. When asked about his plans for the Tour de France, he said he’s worrying first about the spring classics. When pressed about his views on the election of Donald Trump, he shrugged, “I am not political.”

Later Saturday afternoon, he was slated to challenge local riders to a wheelie competition. Just another day in the life of Peter Sagan.