While most riders will use the Vuelta España to peak for the world championships in Tuscany, Peter Sagan (Cannondale) has opted for a different build-up, combining training camps and races in the USA and Canada to prepare for the fight for the rainbow jersey on September 29.
The hilly circuit around Florence is expected to be one of the toughest world championships of the last 20 years. Sagan has proved he is one of the best one-day cobbled Classic riders and sprinters in the world, but the world championships could confirm he is one of the best riders in the world, period.
Sagan rode the RideLondon event on Sunday and then flew directly to Colorado and headed to Aspen for a training camp before he competes in the USA Pro Challenge with his Cannondale teammates.
He has the support of a Cannondale soigneur and help from the CEO of Osmo Nutrition Ben Capron for his training camp. The relatively new brand of hydration products is the North American hydration sponsor of the Cannondale team, coming on board after Sagan struggled with cramps at the Amstel Gold Race and the extremely hot stages at the Tour of California. Osmo Nutrition is carrying out some testing with Sagan to help perfect his hydration strategy.
Last year Sagan failed to win a race after the Tour de France and finished 14th in the world championships even though the Valkenburg course suited him perfectly. To avoid a similar end of season flop and to reach a third peak of form for the world championships, Sagan has opted to spend a long spell at altitude in the USA.
“It’s a different way of doing things but I think it’s the best way for me. Out here there are no real distractions and I can combine some good training on great roads with the benefits of altitude,” Sagan told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview in between rides to avoid rain showers.
“I don’t listen to my critics and don’t care about what happened last year because I know that every season is different and that every rider is different. This block of training is about getting going again after the Tour de France. It’s about focusing on the third part of my season after peaking in the spring and again at the Tour de France. It’s never easy having a third peak and being at 100% but we’ll give a try.”
“I arrived late on Monday and we’re at 2400m, so for the first five days I’m going to acclimatise to the altitude and then gradually step-up the intensity of my training. I’m doing two short rides today to try and miss the rain showers. It’s about staying tranquillo and working well.”
I was never 100 per cent at the Tour
Sagan spent some time at home in Slovakia after winning his second green points jersey at the Tour de France. He dominated the points competition from early on in the Tour but won just one stage and was rarely competitive against the likes of Marcel Kittel and Mark Cavendish and their high-speed lead out trains.
“The Tour went well, we won the jersey again and won a stage,” Sagan argued. “It could have gone better, but I had a bad crash on the first stage to Bastia and I was never 100 per cent after that. But we won the stage and the green jersey and that was very important. I would have liked to be up there in the sprints but you can’t have it all.”
Sagan will join up with his Cannondale teammates on August 12 after they complete the Tour of Utah. They will ride the USA Pro Challenge (August 19-25) and the Tour of Alberta in Canada (Sept 3-8), followed by the two Canadian WorldTour races: the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec on Sept 13 and the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on September 15.
Sagan will then head to Tuscany for the world championships. The rainbow jersey is a goal but Sagan pushes back against any idea of pressure on his shoulders. He will be an outsider and a worry to the likes of Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali and Spain’s Alejandro Valverde.
“The worlds are a goal but it still seems a long way off at the moment,” he told Cyclingnews.
“I’m trying not to think about it. I want to do well, I’d love to win the world title, but I’m not getting stressed out about it. The course is hard and might suit the climbers better than me. But we’ll see. It’s a unique one-day race and so anything could happen. It’ll all depend on how I’m feeling on the day."
Sagan revealed that Slovakia will have a team of six riders for the world championships, like major nations such as Belgium and United States, thanks largely to Sagan’s haul of WorldTour points.
“It’s likely going to be me, the Velits brothers Martin and Peter, and my brother Juraj,” he said, clearly in charge and team leader.
Sagan always seems to excel when racing in North America and is looking for more success at the USA Pro Challenge and then in Canada.
“I took a break after the Tour de France and so Colorado will be my first race back. I’ll stay tranquillo but if I’m up there, I’ll obviously give it a go…” he said.
"The Canadian races also suit me; they’re both on hard testing circuits, especially Montreal. I was second there in 2010 (winning the sprint behind Robert Gesink) and so I know I can do something.”