With just one win under his belt this year, Tinkoff-Saxo's Peter Sagan is playing down his status as favourite for Milan-San Remo, but is still motivated for a top result. The Slovakian champion gained confidence with a victory on a cold and rainy penultimate stage in Tirreno-Adriatico, and may be enjoying similar conditions on Sunday if the weather predictions come true.
“I’m heading to Milan-San Remo to deliver a top result just like at any other race," Sagan said in a team statement. "When the team or I start a race, the ultimate goal is to win. But in cycling you never know and you have to be realistic. My competitors have the same goals and sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. But Milano-San Remo is special and I’ll naturally be at the start with big ambitions."
Sagan has had a frustrating history with the Italian Monument: in 2012 he won the sprint behind a three-man breakaway, where Simon Gerrans took the win. The next year, he opened up his sprint and had the victory in his grasp until Gerald Ciolek snuck past to give MTN-Qhubeka its first major success. Last year, he entered the race as the odds-on favourite, but finished an anonymous 10th in a group of 25.
Lacking victories, Sagan is no longer the bookmaker's top man. That honour goes to defending champion Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), with Mark Cavendish (Etixx-Quick Step) not far behind. The shift in the finish from the coast to the Via Roma brings the Poggio closer to the finish line, which could be in Sagan's favour, but he was reluctant to pick his main rival.
“It’s difficult to point out a favourite," Sagan said. "In the last three years, we haven't seen the favourites taking the victory and instead it has been outsiders who crossed the finish line first. It’s a special and unpredictable race due to many factors such as the length of the race and the tactical situations. All I can do is to try my best knowing that I’m backed by a strong and motivated team”.
Sagan will be supported by Matti Breschel, Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger, Maciej Bodnar, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Manuele Boaro and Matteo Tosatto. Sports director Bruno Cenghialta says the team will treat Sagan as leader and ride like they are one of the favourites.
“I believe that we enter the race with a strong and quite versatile squad, which is important if we want to have a saying in the different sections of the race," Cenghialta said. "Overall, It's crucial not to spend too much energy during this very long parcours, but I trust that we have a team in good shape ready for some very hard 293 kilometers.
“Being a big Classic, this race has to be approached with great caution. Despite its length, everything is at stake in a very short period and it's very easy to make mistakes. There is a segment of 7-8km between Il Poggio, the descent and the finish, where the race is nearly always decided. The final stretch is extremely important and it will be crucial to correctly manage every single meter in order to set up Peter Sagan. It’s very easy to enter into tactical deadlocks in the final kilometers, especially if the group gets fragmented, so we will have to be very attentive with a strong team controlling the race," Cenghialta said.