Peter Sagan is hoping to exchange the quantity of his victories for more quality next season, with Paris-Roubaix a surprise new objective for 2014 along with Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and a third Tour de France green points jersey.
Sagan tested his ability in the Amstel Gold Race and Flèche Wallonne but struggled to be competitive on the climbs after a long spring campaign. In 2014 he will race less but hopes to win more for the Cannondale Procycling team.
"I won 22 races in 2013, but in 2014 it's about the quality, not the quantity of my victories," he told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview.
"If I can win just three races next year: Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and the green jersey at the Tour de France, that'd be better than my 2013 result. It won’t be easy because cycling's never easy or logical but it'd be cool to win the big races.
"It's the same at the Tour de France. For me it's not about the number of stages I win but about winning the green jersey for a third time."
Sagan will begin racing at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina. He will spend Christmas at home in Slovakia and then head to Los Angeles for the official Cannondale team presentation before traveling south to Argentina.
After that his programme is intense but logical for a Classics contender.
"I ride Tour de San Luis, the Dubai Tour, the Tour of Oman and then Camaiore, Strade Bianche, Tirreno-Adriatico, Milan-San Remo and then Belgium, starting with Harelbeke. After that, it's Ghent-Wevelgem, De Panne, Flanders and Roubaix," he says rolling off his programme from memory as a cycling tongue twister.
Sagan rode Paris-Roubaix in 2010 and 2011 but failed to finish at his first attempt and was only 86th in the gruppetto in 2011. He missed Paris-Roubaix in 2012 and 2013, with the team suggesting his high position on the bike was not suited to bouncing on the cobbles. He is stronger and better balanced now and is keen to test himself on the French pave against Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen but played down his chances of celebrating a lone victory with a wheelie in the Roubaix velodrome.
"I can only ensure that I’ll give hundred percent to have the best result I can. I’ll plan time with the team to test the pavè when we're closer to the race because racing Paris-Roubaix takes a different way to race compared to the other races," he confirmed.
Riders such as Cancellara and Boonen, for example, are specialists for Roubaix and they have a lot of experience, much more than me. Before Paris-Roubaix I will target important goals and, at the moment, more within my range. For me will be just a new and exciting challenge.”
Memories of Paris-Roubaix
During the Cannondale training camp in Tuscany, Cyclingnews showed Sagan a video of the 2008 Junior Paris-Roubaix. He laughed out loud as he watched it and recalled how his enthusiasm and early attack cost him victory on the cobbles.
"I attacked alone on the first section of pave and stayed away for 80km but the English rider Andy Fenn passed me on the last section and won," he said.
"I celebrated when I crossed the line. I knew I'd finished second but I was just happy to have made it to the velodrome."
Sagan will be 24 on January 26, the last day of the Tour de San Luis. He is still young but is the team leader at Cannondale in 2014. He shrugs off any idea of pressure and appears even more confident in ability to win.
"Year after year I'm learning more about myself and what I can do," he told Cyclingnews.
"That's giving me even more confidence. I don’t have to win the very first races I ride anymore because I know I can be competitive in the really big races. That means I can prepare specifically for the races that matter. I still want to win a lot in 2014 but I want to win the big races too."