Peter Sagan back in the mix with first win of 2021 at Volta a Catalunya
Three-time world champion outlines challenging experiences with COVID-19
A perfectly timed final acceleration in the highly technical stage 6 finale of the Volta a Catalunya enabled Peter Sagan to claim his first win of the season and Bora-Hansgrohe’s second in as many days at the race.
Sagan’s lengthy victory drought in 2019 and 2020, which lasted for 15 months in total, came to an end with his spectacular victory in Tortoreto on stage 10 of last October’s Giro d’Italia.
And albeit in a less high-profile scenario, his maiden victory of the 2021 season once more had an impressive feel to it. Sagan blasted through a narrow gap in the middle of the road to come past two rivals in the last metres of the twisting, technical finale of stage 6 to claim victory in what will likely be the only bunch sprint of this year’s Volta.
Fourth in Milan-San Remo last weekend, Sagan’s win in Catalunya will allow the Slovak to tackle the remaining Classics with renewed motivation, particularly after his difficult start to the year when he tested positive for COVID-19 at a training camp in Gran Canaria.
For Bora-Hansgrohe, too, this latest success, their third of 2021, will be another boost to collective morale after Lennard Kämna’s spectacular stage win on Friday coming off the Port de Monserrat climb.
“It went very well, I have to say thanks to my teammates for doing such a great job, they controlled the race from start to finish, and it was a happy ending, so thanks to all,” Sagan said afterwards.
“It was hard to stay with the bunch, because there were a lot of climbs and it was a kind of uphill finish, not really uphill, but it was dragging up and there was a headwind. In the end I felt good, and I took the win, so I’m very happy.”
Asked about his experiences with COVID-19, Sagan said: “It wasn’t very nice, I didn’t have fever, but I lost my sense of smell. I was tired, like I couldn’t do any exercise or hiking, even when I finished my quarantine. Because whatever I did, I just directly went for sleep. I was like that for more than two weeks.
“Afterwards I started training easier, but it was hard at first. Then after three weeks, I started to do it properly, and there wasn’t really much time for anything because I came directly to Milan-San Remo.
“I came here after Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo with no breaks, so I am a bit tired, but I’m happy with this victory.”
Sagan said he was pleased with his progress during the week, but he was not too overly optimistic about his chances on the steep slopes of Montjuic park in Barcelona on Sunday.
“It’s a short stage, quite technical, and I think it’ll be very fast,” he said, but he predicted that it would be more of a GC battle than an opportunity for another stage win. But either way, Sagan can now leave the Volta with a clear sense of mission accomplished.
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Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The Independent, The Guardian, ProCycling, The Express and Reuters.