Although Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) insisted after the race that 'every year is different' in terms of his preparation for the World Championships, there was something familiar about his performance at the GP Québec on Friday.
In 2016, the World Champion hit the accelerator inside the closing metres on the Old Quebec circuit to snag a win ahead of Greg Van Avermaet.
In the 2017 edition of the race, the still-reigning World Champion followed the same script to perfection, defending his title with Van Avermaet again finishing as runner-up.
"It's like if you stamp the same results from last year. The style of the race was very similar," Sagan acknowledged after the 201.6km WorldTour event. It wasn't only top two placings that followed the same template. Cannondale-Drapac's Rigoberto Urán, who won the race in 2015 and tried to do the same with a move in the finale in 2016, made a late attempt to get clear yet again this year.
"Everybody expected that Rigoberto Urán was going to attack in the last kilometre, and he did it again," Sagan said. "All the guys just went behind him, and after I was waiting just for the last hundred metres."
Surely, an identical result to the one that preceded last year's winning ride at Worlds will provide the 27-year-old Slovakian with a welcome benchmark ahead of his bid for a third straight gold medal. There's not much time left for tuning up as the challenge of defending his rainbow jersey, and Sagan now has confirmation that he's in winning form when it comes to hilly circuit races in September.
At least in the post-race press conference, however, Sagan was decidedly uninterested in making comparisons to last year or drawing conclusions ahead of the road race in Bergen, Norway.
"I don't know what's going to happen in two or three weeks. We're here and two days we have another race in Montréal, and then the team time trial. After that we'll see what's going to happen," he said, while also staying mum on the subject of rivals.
His fellow Québec podium finishers Van Avermaet and Michael Matthews (Sunweb) will be among the pre-race favourites to deny Sagan in Bergen, but Sagan warned that the field will present challenges beyond those who joined him in making the trek to Canada.
He paid due respect to the pair, but pointed out that "much more are coming [to Bergen]. We are not racing just as three riders."
Even Sunday's GP Montréal seemed too far into the distant future for Sagan.
"I just finished one race and I want to enjoy my victory," he said when asked about his expectations for the event that kicks off in less than 48 hours. "We'll think about Montréal on Sunday morning."
That doesn't mean he's resting on his laurels, of course. His GP Québec win marked his 100th career victory as a pro, just one more impressive achievement on an ever-growing list. Although Sagan was glad to have number 100 in the bag, he wasn't going to dwell on it.
"I have to still keep myself hungry for other victories. It's some kind of motivation. It's very nice," he said, before waxing philosophical, "but maybe it's better to live a hundred years."
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