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Sagan signs three-year deal with Tinkoff-Saxo

The Slovak sprinter has won the points title at the last three Tours de France

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In what was perhaps cycling’s worst kept secret, Tinkoff-Saxo officially confirmed Friday the arrival of Peter Sagan for a three-year contract through 2017.

Rumors have been flying since the spring classics that the multi-skilled Slovak was heading to the Oleg Tinkov-owned team. Despite being linked to such teams as Katusha and the new project backed by Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, the Tinkoff move was all but inevitable.

On Friday, the news became official. Three years for Sagan at an estimated 4 million euros per season, from 2015 to 2017.

“Peter is without a doubt one of the biggest talents in cycling, and one of the biggest names already,” said Tinkoff manager Bjarne Riis in a press release. “He has a winning mentality. He’s visible and active in the finales, and, without a doubt, has the ability to bring home victories.”

The “get” is huge for Tinkoff, which already boasts one of the deepest GC squads, centered on Spanish star Alberto Contador. When Contador is healthy, he gives Tinkoff top-tier favorite status in any race it starts. The arrival of Sagan will bolster the team’s ambitions for the spring classics, one-day races, and sprint finales in the grand tours.

Sagan has won three consecutive green jerseys at the Tour de France, and though he is not a pure sprinter, his arrival should not conflict with the GC ambitions of Contador. Sagan can largely look out for himself in the hunt for stages, and will be able to count on the help of such riders as Daniele Bennati in the sprint finales.

Despite his consistency, Sagan did not win a stage in this year’s Tour and has yet to win a “monument” in the spring classics. Riis believes he can get even more out of Sagan, who turned pro with Cannondale in 2010.

“It will be exciting to work with Peter also for me personally,” Riis said. “He has a huge talent and he’s already very strong but I believe he has even more potential than what we’ve seen so far. He still has a lot to learn about the tactical aspects of cycling to fully optimize his power, but I believe that we are fully able to help him improve even more.”

Sagan’s arrival will bolster Tinkoff’s spring classics program dramatically. Ever since the departure of classics strongman Fabian Cancellara to the Leopard-Trek project in 2011, Riis’ program, with the exception of Roman Kreuziger’s victory in the 2013 Amstel Gold Race, has been unable to achieve major success in the spring classics.

Sagan will immediately put Tinkoff on the front row for the cobblestone classics. The team is expected to hire even more classics-style riders in the coming days, with a rumored arrival of Edvald Boasson Hagen from Sky at the top of the list.

Sagan’s arrival also serves as a confirmation of team owner Tinkov as a major player in the rider marketplace. The Russian entrepreneur returned to cycling in 2013, linking up with Riis as a co-sponsor. After much wrangling, Tinkov bought out Riis and his UCI WorldTour license for an estimated 6 million euros at the end of the 2013 season. Riis now focuses on team management, while the flamboyant Russian tycoon asserts his new position as one of the most outspoken team owners in the peloton.

Tinkov told VeloNews during the Giro d’Italia that he had plenty of money to spend on big-name riders, and said his goal is nothing short of creating the best team in cycling.

The arrival of Sagan certainly confirms that Tinkov is living up to his hype.

“Peter Sagan is a great rider and it is my honor to have him on our team,” Tinkov said in a team release. “I believe that Tinkoff-Saxo is the best team for Peter and I’m absolutely sure that he’ll win many races with us. I am excited.”

With Sagan in the classics and sprints, and Contador aiming for grand tours, Tinkov’s dream of creating a super team is well on its way to becoming a reality.