Road

Sagan thrilled with ‘surprise’ stage 4 win in California

Overall leader's fourth stage win in as many tries was his favorite, because he expected it least

CLOVIS, California (VN) — Upon winning a fourth consecutive stage of this year’s Amgen Tour of California, Peter Sagan looked happier crossing the finish line in Clovis on Wednesday than he had after any other stage of the race.

The reason is simple — this time around, he didn’t think he was going to win.

The 22-year-old Slovakian national champion suffered in the mid-90s heat and over the day’s six categorized climbs, and midway through the stage he told his teammates that he didn’t think he had another stage win in his legs.

His Liquigas-Cannondale teammates told him otherwise.

“Today was a very special win for me,” Sagan said. “Today we said before the stage that three stages is good, but one more is better. But during the race I wasn’t thinking that I would win. It was very hot. I poured water on my head all day long. I wasn’t thinking that I would win again. Yesterday I was lucky, and the day before I was lucky, and I thought today, no more.

“But after the last climb,” Sagan continued, “my teammate Daniel Oss came to me and said that he felt very good, and that we would win another today. He told me that he would work hard for me in the final sprint, and I said, ‘OK, we’ll try.’”

Sagan did more than try — he outsprinted Garmin-Barracuda’s Heinrich Haussler for a fourth straight day, stifling other world-class sprinters such as Michael Matthews (Rabobank) and Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

“Sagan is the fastest guy at the moment, and he proved it again today,” Haussler said.

Sagan also gained another 10 seconds on time bonuses, and now leads the race’s GC contenders by 40 seconds heading into Thursday’s stage 5 time trial in Bakersfield.

However it’s not a lead the Liquigas rider is concerned about maintaining. Instead, he’ll focus on winning again in Big Bear on stage 6, as he did in 2010, and also on the race’s final stage, in Los Angeles on Sunday.

“Tomorrow I will lose this jersey,” Sagan said. “I don’t time trial well. Maybe I can do well in Big Bear, but we’ll see.”

And if Sagan were to win again in Big Bear, or Los Angeles, he might claim to be surprised. But would anyone else be?