Slovak Peter Sagan heads into Sunday's elite men's road race at the 2011 UCI World Championships as one of the favourites, tipped by the peloton and pundits alike, however the 21-year-old is keen to steer clear of such mantles.
"It's nice that people talk about me as a favourite, but I know it will be very hard for me Sunday," Sagan told assembled members of the media on Friday. "I will fight with all the best riders of which many, like me, will be able to take advantage of the course in the best possible way."
When it comes to race wins in 2011, only Belgium's Philippe Gilbert has done better with Sagan striking 15 times so far. In terms of form, Sagan arrives at the top of his game having won three stages of the Vuelta a España at his first grand tour attempt and then last week, 'testing his legs' with victory at the GP Industria & Commercio di Prato.
Speaking of his stunning success this season, Sagan paid tribute to his Liquigas-Cannondale teammates explaining, "When you are well supported and you are on top form, everything is easier." Therein lays perhaps the crucial element that Sagan could be missing on Sunday, with only Martin and Peter Velits at his service.
"We are only three Slovaks at the start, so I could not really have the support of a team like others," he suggested. "Everyone talks about a sprint but I'm not so sure. There will be lots of attacks. The weather could also play a role. Whoever wins will be very strong in his legs and his head. "
Another factor is experience – with Sagan a DNF in last year's event in Geelong.
"I know the course suits me well but it's more complicated than that," he said of the uphill finish which could eliminate some of the pure sprinters. "I do not want to create too many expectations around me."