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It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.
After returning from a pre-season camp in early December, Peter Sagan was already looking forward to hooking up with his new teammates at TotalEnergies once again in Calpe, Spain, on January 11 for a two-week block of training. But his plans were complicated when he contracted a second case of Coronavirus over the December holidays.
“I was really out for seven days,” Sagan said after finally arriving on Sunday night. “It didn’t last as long as the first time I got it, but it was tough.”
Needless to say, the 31-year-old Slovakian was elated to finally have made it to the team camp, and he was only too happy to go out on a three-and-a-half-hour training ride with his French team on January 17th. A steady ride in the Mediterranean sun was more than welcome.
And Sagan is clearly happy in his new digs. “There is a real family spirit here. With some teams, the riders all sit at one table and the staff another. But here everybody sits with whoever they want. It’s really like that we are one.”
Sagan of course is not the only rider to have contracted the COVID in the past few months, and entire teams like Jumbo-Visma canceled their January camp when members of the team fell ill.
But the pandemic is not only wreaking havoc on the riders, it has seriously compromised many early-season races. Australia’s Santos Tour Down Under, the first World Tour race of the year, has long been canceled. And while Sagan was originally slated to return to Argentina’s Vuelta a San Juan, it, too, was finally canceled during the first week of January.
Sagan had hoped to continue his South American adventure with an altitude training camp in Colombia, as he did in 2020, but without the San Juan stage race first, his trip to Colombia was also canceled.
Instead, Sagan will go directly from Calpe to the Canary Islands for more training. And while the camp will not be at altitude, it will offer him the opportunity to accumulate the early-season base miles that he is missing.
If his fitness is where he hopes, his first race will likely be the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var, a hilly three-day stage race around France’s Côte d’Azur from February 18-20 before heading to Belgium for the opening weekend of the Flemish races.
And while it is still undecided if he will race Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice, monuments like Milano-Sanremo, Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix remain top objectives for one of the best classics riders of the past decade.
Questions also surround Sagan’s return to the Giro d’Italia. His Total Energies team is not a WorldTour team and they are not automatically qualified. But perhaps more importantly, Sagan now rides for a French team. And it is safe to say that the Tour de France is nothing short of sacred.