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Versatile displays in North America bode well for Florence
Peter Sagan's pre-Worlds North American racing programme came to a resounding conclusion on Sunday with a stunning solo victory at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal, the 22nd win of the 2013 season for the 23-year-old Slovakian champion. Amazingly, amongst the now 58 wins in his four-year professional career, the victory in Montréal was only his second in a one-day WorldTour race after claiming Gent-Wevelgem in March of this year and interestingly, for someone who typically uses his finishing speed to cross the finish line first, both one-day victories came as a result of a well-timed solo attack from a small group in the closing kilometres.
Sagan's versatility seems to know no bounds, and in two weeks' time we'll see if his preparation for the elite road world championships in Florence, Italy will garner the Slovakian his first elite rainbow jersey to add to the one he claimed for winning the junior mountain bike world title in 2008, also earned on Italian soil.
Sagan arrived in Aspen, Colorado in early August for a period of altitude acclimatization and then faced a block of racing consisting of Colorado's USA Pro Challenge (August 19-25), the Tour of Alberta (September 3-8), followed by the pair of Canadian one-day WorldTour races on September 13 and 15 in Quebec and Montréal respectively.
"I'm young and I worked hard at the Tour de France to win the green jersey and doing the Vuelta is very hard now," he said of his decision to prepare for the world championships in North America.
In those 15 days of racing Sagan won on eight occasions taking four sprint victories in Colorado, a prologue time trial win and two sprint wins in Alberta, culminating in the solo victory in Montreal - a remarkable 53.3% victory rate.
"I wanted to win in Quebec and also Montréal, but I won only one," Sagan said with a laugh at the post-Montreal press conference. "My objective was these two [WorldTour] races here and now I go for the Worlds."
Sagan was reminded that Eddy Merckx won a world championship 39 years ago on the same Montréal circuit and it may take a Merckxian display of strength for the Slovakian to prevail in Florence on what's considered one of the most taxing world championship courses in decades.
Winning convincingly on a one-day course with approximately 12,000 feet of climbing is certainly a good harbinger, but Sagan wasn't so sure.
"Today we only did 200 kilometres and there it's 280, but we will see," said Sagan. "I want to do well there. I don't have a very good team, Slovakia only has six riders, so maybe I have to ride behind another team like Switzerland, Spain, or Belgium.
"The world championship is a strange race and you have to have luck to win a world championship."