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Sagan tweaks calendar as he hits 30

The Slovakian debuts later this month in Argentina, with Giro debut and traditional targets in the classics and Tour also on the schedule.

Peter Sagan will celebrate his 30th birthday in South America as he adjusts his calendar for the 2020 season.

The Bora-Hansgrohe star will debut at the Vuelta a San Juan (January 26-February 2), with the opening stage coinciding with his birthday.

There are a few minor tweaks in Sagan’s calendar in an Olympic year that will see him race the Giro d’Italia for the first time and take an outsider’s shot at the mountainous Tokyo course.

“My race program has changed somewhat,” Sagan said. “In addition to the Giro, my goals will be the same as every year — the classics in the spring and the Tour de France.”

The three-time world champion won’t be debuting at the Santos Tour Down Under later this month as he has the past three years. Part of the reason is that Sagan wants to delay his racing debut just a bit as he targets the Giro for the first time. Adding the Italian race to his calendar means the first half of his 2020 will be front-loaded with the classics, the Giro-Tour double and the Olympics all stacked up in quick succession.

Sagan won’t take on the Olympics on the mountain bike as he did in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but will start the road race anyway despite the demanding Tokyo road course. It remains to be seen if Sagan will make a serious run at an equally climb-heavy world championships in Switzerland, with some suggestion that Sagan might pull the plug on his season after the Olympics.

The 2020 season also sees the exit of Sagan’s longtime coach and sport director Patxi Vila, who moves to Movistar as head of performance for the Spanish WorldTour team. Bora-Hansgrohe tapped Hendrik Werner as its new coach, with Jean-Pierre Heynderickx slotting in as sports director.

This spring, Sagan will return the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, a race he’s twice finished second, but hasn’t raced since 2017. After that, he’s expected to target Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico and Milano-Sanremo heading into the heart of the northern classics.

Right now, there’s no talk of extending his classics season beyond Paris-Roubaix. With the Giro d’Italia on tap, a shot at Amstel Gold Race and the redesigned Liège-Bastogne-Liège isn’t on the cards this year.

Bora-Hansgrohe has also upped its ante in stage racing, meaning there’s less pressure on Sagan to carry the entire weight of the team. The continued improvement of Emanuel Buchmann, fourth overall in the 2019 Tour, means the team will be looking to add some climbing legs to support the improving German in the GC this July.

“We have big plans for next year,” said team manager Ralph Denk. “Our goals are to make a podium result at a grand tour, win a monument like we did in 2018, and we’re building toward becoming the No. 1 in the world in the future.”

The main focus this spring will be pushing Sagan first across the finish line in one of cycling’s monuments. That means Sagan is betting big on San Remo, a race he’s twice finished second and one he would like to check off. Tour of Flanders, where he was a winner in 2016, and Roubaix, a 2018 winner, are the other top spring goals.

At the Giro, Sagan will target stage wins and perhaps the points jersey if he makes it all the way to Milano. The grueling back-loaded Giro course should see several chances for Sagan to complete the grand tour stage win sweep in the first half.

After that, the Tour beckons, where he’ll aim for another green jersey and more stage wins. At the Giro, he’ll share sprint duties with Pascal Ackerman, but the emerging German sprinter is expected to race the Vuelta a España, meaning Sagan will have support in the stages well-suited for his style during the Tour.

For Sagan, 2020 presents more of the same, with a few adjustments due to his highly anticipated Giro debut.