Peter Sagan celebrated his 29th birthday in Argentina as he waited for Sunday’s start of the Vuelta a San Juan, enjoying a quiet beer with his Bora-Hansgrohe teammates before things turn serious and the racing begins on Sunday.
Sagan takes centre stage on the official race poster that promotes the Vuelta a San Juan and was the big draw at the pre-race press conference on Friday evening that was dominated by speeches from local politicians and dignitaries. The president of the local cycling club said he felt like a boy before Christmas, with another official saying it was a dream come true to have Sagan at the race.
Sagan was a little more laid back.
“I’m relaxed. It’s my second race of the year and so I’m relaxed," he said. "The season is only just starting, and the more important races are coming in March and April. I’m still trying to get into my best shape.
Sagan arrived from Australia on Tuesday after completing the Tour Down Under. A slight date change to the Vuelta a San Juan allowed him to include the race in the block of January racing that is designed to provide a solid base of form before he completes a circumnavigation of the globe and works at altitude in Europe to be at his best for the Spring Classics.
Of course, Sagan was immediately competitive in Australia, even if he was modest about his form. He won stage 3 of the Tour Down Under and was on the podium in two others.
“It’s always good to win something early, but I just hope it’s not my best result of the year,” he joked, letting out his deep laugh.
“We decided to do some race kilometres in Australia and then here, so that after I focus on my training in Europe and do some altitude training. I’ll start a little later with Tirreno-Adriatico. I like that plan.”
Sagan appeared happy to share the Bora-Hansgrohe sprinting responsibilities at the Vuelta a San Juan with Sam Bennett. The Irishman makes his season debut in Argentina, but Sagan conceded that he is perhaps faster in the pure sprints when Bora-Hansgrohe will take on Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Alvaro Hodeg and Max Richeze (Deceuninck-QuickStep) and the numerous smaller local teams looking for a prestigious sprint scalp and a moment of glory.
“There are some stages that suit me, but we’ve got Sam Bennett here too for the sprints. I think Sam is faster for the flat stages, and for me there’s no problem helping him or to be in the front for him,” Sagan said, sharing the responsibility and expectations.
“A stage win would be good for me, perhaps where’s there’s a small climb at the finish. We’ll see.”