Sagan ready for Olympic Games mountain bike race

Road World Champion arrives in Rio not knowing 'what to expect'

Road World Champion Peter Sagan has arrived in Rio ahead of the Olympic Games cross-country mountain bike race Sunday with modest expectations regarding his chances of winning a medal.

"Technically, I am not bad. I am not here to lose," said Sagan who won the 2008 junior cross-country world title. "Can I win? If I lose, I am not disappointed. If I win, it's so good."

In January, Sagan reconned the Rio road race with Tinkoff teammates Maciej Bodnar and Poljanski Pawel and decided the course did not suit his characteristics. In June, it was announced by the Slovak Olympic Committee that Sagan would be awarded its sole male mountain bike starting place.

After a successful Tour de France in which he won three stages, wore the yellow jersey and won the points classification for a fifth straight year, the 26-year-old headed to North American for altitude training in Utah and Wyoming. While several road riders, Joe Dombrowski and Alex Howes (Cannondale-Drapac), Laurens ten Dam (Giant-Alpecin) and Tour of Utah winner Lachlan Morton (Jelly-Belly), took part in the Leadville 100, Sagan opted to ride Pierre's Hole 50 where he took the victory.

"I have not raced mountain bike in seven years. A lot of things have changed," said Sagan who has actually ridden several mountain bike events in preparation for Rio.. "I'm here for more personal (reasons). I want to try. I will give the maximum for sure."

Sagan made his Olympics debut in 2012, finishing 34th in the road race, but is more excited for his second appearance in Rio.

"I raced the road race in London and I already wanted to race mountain bike there but it was not possible," he said. "For sure, it's a big dream for me."

While the top cross country riders are well aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses due to years of competitive racing, Sagan firms as somewhat of a wild card and unknown quality. 

"It's all about one day. All about one and a half hours. The tactics I will decide during the race. You can lose the race in the start, but it could be good. Maybe if I am lucky, and I can go to the front pretty fast. Maybe I will waste too much energy," Sagan said.

"The Tour de France has nothing to do with mountain biking. For sure, the road race, it's a completely different effort. You cannot compare it to time trial. It's more like cyclocross. Mountain bike is something different."

In his bid for a medal, Sagan will come up against France's Julien Absalon, Switzerland's Nino Schurter and gold medallist from 2012, Jaroslav Kulhavý (Czech Republic).

"I did my best in training. I will do my best Sunday. No one knows what the hell to expect. Maybe it's more fun that way," he added.

Despite classics rival Greg Van Avermaet winning the road race, there is no regret in Sagan's decision to race the cross-country over the road.

"I'm surprised in the victory of Greg Van Avermaet, but the road race in the Olympics is a strange race," said Sagan. "There is not a strong field, it depends on the legs, it depends on the luck. He was also a bit lucky due to the crash involving the others, but the Olympic gold medal is for all of life."

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