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Tinkoff-Saxo sharpening Sagan and his support team for monuments

Aboard a new team for 2015, Sagan is finding new ways to improve and refine his talent with an aim to win his first monument this season

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DOHA, Qatar (VN) — Team Tinkoff-Saxo is tweaking Peter Sagan’s training and position ahead of what will be one of his most testing seasons in the classics.

“We can’t go into details, but of course, we have a new setup and we are working more professionally in training and coaching,” team manager Bjarne Riis told VeloNews. “Through the year, you should see progress.”

Riis welcomed Sagan to the Russian/Danish team this year from Team Cannondale. Sagan graduated to the WorldTour with the team in green in 2010 and shot to stardom soon afterward.

Besides doing tricks like riding over parked cars and one-handed wheelies, Sagan won. He collected victories and points jerseys — including three green ones in the Tour de France — in almost all the stage races he entered. He scored wins in one-day races Gent-Wevelgem, E3 Harelbeke, and the GP Montreal.

The monuments — specifically the Milano-Sanremo, the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and Paris-Roubaix — are the only ones that remain.

The 25 year-old Slovak is on track. He placed fourth in Sanremo, fourth in the Ronde in 2012, and second in both races in 2013. The ‘Saganator’ slipped backward slightly in 2014 — 10th in Sanremo, 16th in the Ronde, and sixth in Roubaix — but team Tinkoff-Saxo aims to correct that.

Riis hired Bobby Julich to coach some of 30 cyclists, and specifically Sagan. The Dane is also drawing on Daniel Healey, head of sports science, and using his own experience gained helping Fabian Cancellara to become a classics star.

He explained that he assembled the best classics team that he has had yet. Sagan told VeloNews that he would rely mostly on teammates Matti Breschel, Maciej Bodnar, Chris Juul Jensen, Daniele Bennati, and Matteo Tosatto.

“We are building a good team around him,” Riis said.

“When you have guys like Alberto Contador and Peter on the team then you have riders who need to win races. They should get the support, they deserve it. It’s not good enough just to have a rider without the right support around him.

“It’s my job to analyze a guy when he joins a team and to make him better. Peter’s a great guy with enormous potential. We are working on his position a lot, actually. He’s had some problems that we are helping him with.”

Sagan told VeloNews that Julich has been helping him simulate in training certain attacks and responses to attacks, like those he could find in his favorite monuments. Riis confirmed this, but would not reveal specific details.

Though he has a strong sprint, Sagan saw others ride away from him at key moments, like when Cancellara attacked to win the Ronde in 2014 and 2013.

“The pressure’s not on him. No,” Riis said. “There are two types of pressure, the one you don’t need and the one you need and like to have to motivate you. You shouldn’t go into negative pressure, that’s not useful. And we all know in cycling that sometimes you are good, but you don’t win due to circumstances. As long as you’ve done the right things to be ready, at least you’ll have the opportunity.”

Sagan is racing this week in the Tour of Qatar, where he placed fourth in the first two stages. He could have a chance to win already before the race ends Friday, but his big opportunity to draw on Tinkoff-Saxo’s support will come from late March through mid-April at the classics.