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Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Doimo) on the podium after collecting a Paris-Nice stage win
Slovak youngster wins stage, but vows service to leader Kreuziger
20-year-old Peter Sagan remained humble after claiming his first professional win in Aurillac at the end of stage 3 of Paris-Nice, but his performances leading up to the victory had already gained the attention of his competitors.
"I didn't know I could be so strong so quickly at the Pro Tour level," he underlined. "I had a first taste of it in Australia at the Santos Tour Down Under. I did well there. After that I thought I might go down a little bit but it's not the case here at Paris-Nice."
In Adelaide, he impressed Lance Armstrong when he rode the American off his wheel on Willunga Hill. In the prologue of Monfort-L'Amaury where he came 5th and in Aurillac, Alberto Contador was also made aware of the young Slovakian's talents. Even still, Sagan retains his admiration for the riders who inspired him as a child.
"All the champions of the Pro Tour are very impressive but Armstrong and Contador are even more impressive than the others. Ten years ago, I was still a very small kid when I watched Armstrong on TV and now, here I am, at Paris-Nice, which is a very nice race. This is my favourite bike race for the moment. When I'll finish it, if I finish it, then I'll have three weeks free to go back to see my family in Zilina, Slovakia."
Between the races, Sagan lives in Italy near Venice, in San Dona di Piavè, which is the hometown of former world champion Moreno Argentin. While his history in the ProTour is very short, Sagan listed off his long history of racing bikes on and off-road.
"I started cycling in mountain bike when I was 9 year old," he explained. "Three years later, I quit but my family pushed me to resume racing. I switched from mountain biking to road racing and I did both at the same time until last year [he came 4th at the U23 MTB world championship in Canberra, ed.].
"I also rode cyclo-cross but only for two years as a junior [he came 2nd to Frenchman Arnaud Jouffroy at the 2008 world championship, ed.]. Now that I'm a Pro Tour rider, I'd still like to do mountain bike as well, but it's impossible because I can't score the necessary points to qualify for a good position on the start line."
After his three week break, Sagan will resume racing at the Tour of Turkey (April 11 to 18).
"I'm also hoping to ride the Tour of California in May but there's definitely no Grand Tour on my agenda this year. I'm too young to start the Tour de France. We'll see how the rest of my season goes.
"For now, I remain at the service of Roman Kreuziger who is still our captain for Paris-Nice. I waited for him today, that's why I didn't take any turn in the front group until I sprinted 200 metres before the finishing line. As for myself, I don't know yet what I can do in the hardest climbs of this race. They are yet to come. I can only say that I'm already happy to have won my first pro race, especially at the ProTour level, and I have more work to do for Roman."