Peter Sagan may have played down his ambitions at the Tour Down Under this week but Orica Scott manager Matt White believes that the world champion holds the keys to unlocking the future of this year's race. White is not the only team director to voice such an opinion. At the teams' presentation on Saturday evening two other bosses pinpointed Sagan as the central figure at this year's race.
"If Sagan wants to take this race apart, he can and he will," commented one rival boss.
"Peter Sagan affects the way everyone races," White added when Cyclingnews caught up with him. "He’s the best bike rider in the world. What's going to affect how people race is how well or not he’s going. I'm sure he's going well but we're not going to find out his complete form until the second stage."
The second stage to Paracombe would suit an inform Sagan but the Bora leader told the press that his teammate Jay McCarthy was the squad's designated GC prospect. Considering he has just moved to the team, and that McCarthy has targeted this race for several months, a likely outcome here could see Sagan become a domestique on stage 2 while targeting the sprints. White envisages his sprinter, Caleb Ewan, going toe-to-toe with Sagan in the bunch sprints, regardless of the World Champion's form.
"I'm sure he's going to be Caleb's biggest competitor here in the sprint stages, just based off his class. In GC, if this races was a little bit later… but we don't know what form he's coming in with. He's not going to come here with bad form. It's just about whether he can climb with Chaves, Porte and Henao on a climb that's more than seven or eight minutes."
Ewan won two stages here last season and although he will not race the Tour de France this year, White is slowly bringing him to the boil.
Another tilt at the Giro d'Italia is likely as the 22-year-old works on his stamina while also harnessing the natural speed he possess.
"His biggest asset is his speed and you don't want to lose that. The endurance will come with time but you want to have that balance as he develops. He's an ambitious kid, so he wants to do the Tour and the Giro and I think you'll see a great rivalry between him and [Fernando] Gaviria over the years. I think that they're the future of sprinting."
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