Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe) was beaten by Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) in the final sprint of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico, but he did not seem too upset after the finish, shrugging off defeat with a laugh and a smile as he rode to the podium to collect the red points jersey.
His second place and a late attack on the descent of the last climb seemed more like a low-key dress rehearsal for Milan-San Remo. He arguably showed his hand too early this time but will surely be far more careful about fluffing his lines come Saturday.
Sagan admitted he knew he had lost the sprint when he crossed the line half a wheel down on Gaviria. Two impressive stage wins at Tirreno-Adriatico mean he is still the logical favourite for the first Monument Classic of the season, even if Gaviria is a real threat in a sprint on the Via Roma.
"There's not much to say… Gaviria was stronger, that's it," Sagan said in the mixed zone near the podium area after Monday's stage.
Sagan was apparently hurt by some criticism about his way of answering questions from the media but did not change his rather unique style of facing questions. When provoked, he hit back with his own sense of humour and hubris.
Asked if he used too much energy there, he answered simply: "No."
When it was suggested he was alone in the finale after his attack on the descent had split the peloton and so without any kind of lead out train in the sprint, Sagan offered some 'alternative facts'’.
"Alone, I don't know… I always had Bodnar, Burgi, and others from the team. Only that it was a bit chaotic in the finale. We didn't know if Quick-Step was going to sprint or try with an attack. It was a strange stage, but I'm happy to be here at the end and going home with two stage wins."
When it was suggested that Gaviria is the favourite for Milan-San Remo, Sagan finally fell for the provocation and hit back.
"You can say what you want. In my opinion, there are many favourites. San Remo has always been strange, and in the last 5-6 years, it seems like someone different won who wasn't the favourite!" he said.
With a long, deep laugh, Sagan then signed off and headed to his hotel.
Due to his aversion to media questions, the next time we are likely to hear him speak is after whatever happens at Milan-San Remo on Saturday.
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