Peter Sagan can complete a rare cobbled Classics triple if he wins Sunday's Paris-Roubaix, and former Classics winner Francesco Moser, Andrea Tafi and Johan Museeuw are convinced the world champion has the form and ability to add the ‘Hell of the North' to his victories at Gent-Wevelgem and Tour of Flanders. Sagan also appears ready to start an new era in the cobbled Classics with Tom Bonoen and Fabian Cancellara close to retirement.
Museeuw won the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix three times but never in the same season. He knows how difficult it can be for a race favourite, but says the pressure is off Sagan now.
"He can race without any pressure on is shoulders now after winning two major Classics. The pressure is on the other riders who haven't won," Museeuw suggested to Gazzetta dello Sport. "His form seems really good and so he only needs stay focused and recover carefully before Sunday. Peter is able to win in so many ways that he can force his rivals to take up the race. He's faster than Cancellara in a finish and probably even faster than Boonen, too."
"The future of the cobbled Classics in is hands. He's got seven or eight seasons ahead of him and could get even better. We're likely to see his name in the cobbled Classics results lot more."
Francesco Moser used his endurance and power to win Paris-Roubaix in 1978,1979 and 1980, and saw similarities in Sagan's performances.
"I was impressed how Sagan managed to hold off the chase by Cancellara in the finale on Sunday. He made a time trial effort and so beat Cancellara on his home turf. When you do things like that, it really boosts your confidence," Moser pointed out.
"It's important not to underestimate Cancellara's pride at Paris-Roubaix but Peter likes a fight. If you look at all his results, both in the Classics and in other races or stages that suit him, he's always up there. The fact that he's also doing it as world champion this year is great for the sport."
Felice Gimondi was a Grand Tour rider but also targeted the Classic and won Paris-Roubaix in 1966 when he was just 24. Sagan has yet to land a result in four rides at Paris-Roubaix but Gimondi is convinced he is now ready to leave his mark because he has the ability to race on the Roubaix cobbles.
"Technically its not a problem. There are no climbs in Paris-Roubaix but Sagan can get away on the flat too. He hasn't got the results in Paris-Roubaix yet but he's got the power and technique to win it. I'm sure he'll take over the reign of Cancellara and Boonen. The only other rider his age who could challenge is Michal Kwiatkowski, all the others have still got a lot to prove."
Tafi completed Gazzetta dello Sport's opinion piece on Sagan. The former Mapei rider won Paris-Roubaix in 1999 after finishing third on the famous all-Mapei podium in 1996. He also won the Tour of Flanders in 2002. Like, Moser and Gimondi, Tafi was in Belgium for the celebrations of the 100th edition of the Tour of Flanders and saw Sagan triumph. However he warned that Paris-Roubaix could be a different story.
"Roubaix will be another story and not only because it cold rain. Boonen isn't at his best but will be a threat, as will Cancellara," he warned.
"Of course Sagan is incredibly strong and seemed to have made a break through and shaken off any pressure when he won Gent-Wevelgem. I wouldn't be surprised if he won Roubaix and so completed a special treble. The big question, which is difficult to answer, is: Who can stop him?"