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Lombardi: Peter can win the sprint or alone
Peter Sagan is arguably the favourite for Sunday's Elite men's road race at the UCI Road World Championships but as usual, the Slovakian prefers to play down his chances, shrugging off any pressure and expectations.
"We'll see what happens in the race. If I'm riding well I'll be up there if not I'll climb off and call it a day," he told Cyclingnews in Florence.
His agent, close friend and confidant Giovanni Lombardi was Mario Cipollini's lead-out man and the brains behind Cipo's world title win in 2002. He convinced Sagan to train alone at altitude in Colorado for much of August and September rather than in Europe. He is convinced that Sagan will have the form to survive on the tough Fiesole circuit and win, be it in a sprint finish or even alone.
"He can win either way, so he'll be the one to decide how to move in the finale," Lombardi told Cyclingnews.
"Peter's got to have good legs, which I think he's got, and then play a smart race. I hope he'll win and I'm sure he'll be in the thick of the action."
Slovakia has six riders in the road race, compared to the major nations who have nine riders. Slovakia has selected Sagan, his brother Juraj, Peter Velits, Martin Velits, Matej Jurco and Patrik Tybor. The whole team will work for Sagan in the hope of winning the rainbow jersey.
The lack of race radios will help reduce the strength of the bigger teams but Sagan knows he will be alone in the finale of the race.
"The Worlds are a totally different race to every other race we do, you can never use other races as an example. I'm racing with the Slovakia team and that will change things," Sagan said in his final pre-race press conference on Friday.
"I feel ready. This is the best I've ever felt for the world championships. Whatever happens, I know I've done everything I can to be ready."
Sagan saw the Fiesole finishing circuit earlier in the season and again on Thursday. It will be a test of his climbing ability, his bike handling skills, especially if it rains, and of his ability to read a race.
"The circuit is quite hard and I'll need a lot of luck, you always do for these types of races," he predicted.
Lombardi agreed but warned that the mixed-route of a largely flat opening 106km and then ten laps of the Fiesole circuit will be a factor.
"It's one of the hardest course in recent yeas but it all depends on how they race it," Lombardi said.
"If there's a classic early break, there's a risk the race will be controlled and so the race will not be as hard. For a selective race the peloton needs to be kept all together. Then the race will explode during the ten laps and it’ll be hard for any sprinter."
Lombardi said that luck will be a factor but warned that Sagan is strong enough to win even if Italy, Spain, Great Britain and Colombia try to make it a hard, selective race.
"Peter isn't afraid of a hard race. He impressed at Montreal. They tried to make it a hard race but he was up there and went on to win alone. Perhaps a hard race is better for him, so he takes on his rivals on a one-to one basis, mano a mano," Lombardi told Cyclingnews.
"His rivals will be the usual suspects: Gilbert, Cancellara, Valverde and perhaps Pozzato. He's on form but is slower in a sprint. Nibali is the leader of the Italian team and could be a threat but he'll have to win alone. I think he's the only one who can get a medal for Italy."