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Sagan starts season on winning note

The three-time world champion grabs his first victory of 2019 on just his third day of racing.

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — It’s a new racing season for Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) with a familiar ending. A few new tattoos, a new haircut, and a new jersey, at least compared to the past three season debuts.

The end result, however, is very much the same.

Sagan returned to his winning ways in 2019, and it didn’t take long. Three days to be exact. After misfiring in the opening two sprints, Sagan punched his way onto the winner’s podium in knockout fashion at the Santos Tour Down Under.

“It’s always nice to win,” Sagan said with his trademark giggle. “That feeling never goes away.”

Sagan erased any doubt that he might not be up to snuff coming into a new campaign. Sagan is always close in just about any race that doesn’t end on top of a mountain. When it’s a long drag uphill, he’s almost unbeatable.

“Sagan has such fast finishing speed, he’s all but impossible to beat,” said Astana’s Luis Leon Sanchez, who came within a half-wheel of doing just that. “Along with Alejandro [Valverde], no one has the pedal speed in a finish like that.”

Thursday’s circuit-course finale over the punchy slopes of the Adelaide Hills is Sagan Country.

The three-time world champion endured a hilly 15km circuit course finale under stifling Australian heat to smash his way to his 110th career victory. It was on the same finishing straight, but a different course, where he won a stage last year.

The script was familiar and the ending was a sequel to the movie we’ve all seen before: a hilly circuit, a reduced bunch, and Sagan throwing his bike across the line.

“If you bring Peter Sagan with 10km to go, and there are only a few short climbs, you have a problem,” said Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila. “Once he sees the finish line, the other teams have a real problem.”

The winning ways might have been the same, but Sagan is easing into 2019 with a different vibe.

For the first time since 2015, he’s not wearing the rainbow bands. That’s something he said doesn’t really make that much of a difference. Vila, however, said Sagan had a much quieter winter. Without the bands, Sagan could unwind a little more — and he even went skiing for a few days.

That’s not to say Sagan has slacked off. If anything, he’s even more ambitious. He’s already said he wants to regain the rainbow jersey on a Yorkshire course that fits him like a glove. There are new ambitions as well, despite following much of the same schedule as always. There’s no Giro d’Italia, but he’ll take a stab at Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

One thing hasn’t changed and that’s Sagan’s desire to win. Put a finish line on the road, and he’ll be fighting for the win.

“We are getting used to these kinds of things from Peter Sagan,” Vila said. “He is a winner. He is a racer and likes to race to win. That’s Peter Sagan.”

Even if he has a different jersey this season, Sagan is still Sagan.