Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was not considered a contender for Milan-San Remo after being in COVID-19 coronavirus quarantine for three weeks in early February but he showed he should never be ruled out with fourth place in the Via Roma sprint.
Sagan was rarely seen up front and he shared team leadership at Bora-Hansgrohe with Max Schachmann, but when the selection was made over the Poggio, he was close by and then got back on during the descent.
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) surged away to victory after the descent of the Poggio, but Sagan was well placed in the final kilometre, covering Mathieu van der Poel’s wheels. Schachmann initially tried to chase Stuyven but eased up after Michael Matthews got on his wheel. Schachmann eventually finished 14th near the back of the 17-rider front group.
When the sprint exploded in touching distance of Stuyven, Sagan found the way through and had the speed to pass a number of riders and finish fourth, just ahead of Van der Poel and Matthews.
Sagan has still to win Milan-San Remo after 11 years of trying and two second places, but he showed he was not done yet, despite many writing him off as a new generation of Classics stars emerge.
“It was a bittersweet Milano-San Remo for me,” Sagan said post race.
“On the one hand, I'm happy because I'm feeling better and my form is gradually improving, although there is still work to be done to reach a top level. On the other hand, I'm a bit angry because it was another Milano-San Remo where I missed the chance to get a victory.
“When the attack was made on the Poggio, a small group went away and I was in the one right behind, together with other strong riders. We didn't respond to the attack, either because we couldn't or because we felt we would bridge the gap on the descent.
“In fact, the two front groups merged and it was clear we would go for a fast sprint finish. I gave my best in the sprint and finished fourth."
Sagan is still searching for his best form and has opted to add the Volta a Catalunya to his race programme. He will miss next week’s E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem to race in Spain, then only head north for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“We decided as a team it could be much better to try Catalunya, you know, preparation because I missed races in January, I missed races in February, and this is my first race,” Sagan said during Tirreno-Adriatico.
“The season is already on. I want to do a good job. I’ll try to do Catalunya to move another level up. Then I have to recover for Flanders and Roubaix. I think it makes sense and we try this way.”
Sagan is also due to ride the Giro d’Italia and then the Tour de France before the Tokyo Olympic Games and eventually the World Championships in Belgium. But he is taking the season one big race at a time.
“For now, everything is confirmed but we’ll see after the Classics,” he said. “We are going to then decide and think about the next races.
"Now is an important period for me, to finish Milan-San Remo, Catalunya, and go for Flanders, Roubaix. After that period we’ll see.”
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