Peter Sagan brushed aside any suggestion that he is under pressure to win Saturday’s Strade Bianche as easily as he frequently flicked back his ever longer locks of hair, insisting his chances depend on how his rivals race and the expected rain that could make the Tuscan race into a battle of survival.
Sagan sat next to fellow world Champion Lizzie Armitstead in the pre-race press conference and then the two posed together in their rainbow jerseys. She has already won her first race in the rainbow jersey, dominating last weekend’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Sagan (Tinkoff) finished second behind Greg van Avermaet (BMC) but has learnt to push back and deflect any expectations.
“I tested my legs in Belgium and my form seemed pretty good but I’m not sure if I can win," he said.
“Tomorrow I’ll do my best and more importantly try to be up front. It will be hard but we’ll see. ‘Favourite’ is a word that doesn’t affect me many more. I just want to do my best every time in every race and see what happens.”
Sagan caused a social media storm when he raced with hairy legs at the Tour de San Luis but he refused to confirm suggestions that he will only get out the razor after taking his first win.
“Someone said that but we’ll see. I never have time to shave my legs…. I’ll see if I eventually get bored with hairy legs,” he joked.
'Strade Bianche has elements of a mountain bike race or cyclo-cross race to it'
Sagan was Junior European and World Champion mountain biker in 2008 and has often used his bike skills to win tough races. That makes him perfectly suited to Strade Bianche’s dirt roads and selective racing.
“I think it’s a special race. It’s unique just like the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix,” he said with appreciation.
“The gravel roads make it iconic. Strade Bianche has elements of a mountain bike race or cyclo-cross race to it. The climbs are steep and hard and so is the finish. If you’ve got good legs, you can have a good race. It’s difficult. I’ve been second twice and want to try to win but we’ll see how it goes.”
“Everyone,” he quipped. “It’s difficult to hide when you have the rainbow jersey. But I still enjoy racing even if it depends on how many people are riding against you too… I’m used to it but we’ll see how I go.”
Cyclingnews will have live coverage of Saturday's Strade Bianche men's race, which begins at 11 a.m. CET (5 a.m. EST)