Peter Sagan's agent has claimed there will be no formal contract negotiations until after Paris-Roubaix but that has done little to dampen the speculation that has grown around the Slovakian's destination for 2015.
Sagan's contract with Cannondale expires at the end of this season and since the turn of the year, he has been variously linked with moves to Tinkoff-Saxo, Fernando Alonso’s planned new team and Astana. Former sprinter and lead out man Giovanni Lombardi is Sagan's agent and is charged with obtaining the best possible deal for the next chapter in Sagan's career.
Speaking to Cyclingnews at the start of Gent-Wevelgem in Deinze on Sunday morning, Cannondale manager Roberto Amadio insisted that there was still a chance that Sagan could stay with the team for 2015.
“Yes, we’re talking, we’re negotiating, so the possibility is there,” Amadio said. “Journalists have been asking where Sagan is going and criticising the team at every race but we’re not affected by it. We’re not looking at Gazzetta, L’Équipe or anywhere else. We’re looking within our team and we’re looking to win races.”
Sagan has raced for Cannondale since turning professional in 2010, and while his level of support in the Classics may not be on a par with that enjoyed by Tom Boonen at Omega Pharma-QuickStep, Amadio said that the 24-year-old is happy with the team on a sporting level.
Economically, however, the situation is somewhat more complicated. Some reports have suggested that Lombardi is seeking a contract worth in excess of €3 million per annum for his client, and – having already lost Vincenzo Nibali to the deeper pockets of Astana at the beginning of last season – it is unclear if Cannondale can compete with the resources on offer elsewhere.
“It’s only an economic problem, because in spite of the continued criticism of the journalists, we’ve shown that we have a team capable of working for him,” Amadio said. “At San Remo, we were the only team that made the race from the start and at Harelbeke on Friday, the team did its work right up until it was supposed to. Peter knows that he has a team devoted to him and that’s important.”
Although formally at least, Sagan will not strike a deal before the end of the classics, his value is unlikely to change substantially in event that he lands victory at the Tour of Flanders or Paris-Roubaix. As Amadio pointed out, his current ability and future potential are both already glaringly obvious.
“It doesn’t change anything – Peter’s next victories won’t change his value and his qualities as a rider,” said Amadio. He also dismissed the idea that Sagan would take Cannondale with him as a bike supplier to Tinkoff-Saxo, as reported by Gazzetta dello Sport recently, highlighting that Cannondale is no longer merely a sponsor but the owner of the team’s WorldTour licence.
“Cannondale, as you could see from the recent statement of Bob Burbank, wants to go ahead with its own team,” Amadio said. “It’s made a big investment and it believes in the team project, independently of who the riders or management might be.”
After a disappointing 10th place finish at Milan-San Remo, Sagan bounced back to claim victory at E3 Harelbeke on Friday and lay down an important marker ahead of next Sunday’s Tour of Flanders.
Amadio hailed Sagan’s tactical acumen in the finale, when he lifted the pace on the penultimate climb to shed John Degenkolb (Giant-Shimano) from the leading group.
“We managed the race well. He had to have a go at that point because otherwise Cancellara’s group would have latched back on as well, and the whole race would have been different,” Amadio said. “Peter was criticised unfairly after San Remo because it was a race conditioned by the bad weather and the Harelbeke result showed that.”