When Peter Sagan appeared at the steps of the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus, the Tuscan cycling fans swarmed forward to see the world champion even if he had finished second in the stage 2 sprint in Follonica Thursday at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"Sei il numero uno anche quando finisci secondo! – You're the number one even when you finish second," a tifoso shouted.
Sagan smiled and began to sign autographs and pose for selfies. He confirmed to Cyclingnews he was satisfied with second place behind a strong Marcel Kittel (Katusha-Alpecin) in the sprint after fighting for the German's wheel in the final kilometres.
"For sure it is a pretty good result. Second is the best I could do this time," Sagan told Cyclingnews.
"Marcel started his sprint with 300m to go. I tried to come off his wheel with about 250m but it was impossible to get up to him. He put it another gear and went away from me…"
Sagan sportingly congratulated Kittel as they slowed following the sprint, satisfied with his own performance and to have safely made it to the finish. He avoided the crash in the peloton with eight kliometres to go but was not happy with the condition of the roads on the 8.3km finishing circuit and how he used his bike skills and elbows to defend his position on Kittel's wheel.
"I congratulated Marcel because he was the strongest today. I was also happy I didn't crash. It was a pretty dangerous finish and the roads weren't great either," Sagan said.
"I used elbows with Sacha Modolo and with Giacomo Nizzolo a little but that's part of sprinting. I was first in the gap on Marcel's wheel, so I was right to defend my place."
Friday's 239km third stage to Trevi will be a much harder stage than the 172km sprint stage Follonica. It ends with an 11km lap of the town and a 1.5km, 11 per cent climb up to the finish. It could suit Sagan but will come after more than six hours in the saddle.
"I don't want to think about tomorrow until tomorrow," Sagan said.