Peter Sagan finished his first race of the season, Tirreno-Adriatico, on Tuesday after several weeks of quarantine and recovery in Gran Canaria, Spain due to a positive test and symptoms for COVID-19.
The Bora-Hansgrohe rider wasn’t sharp, but was pleased to finish the seven-day stage race in preparation to “get back to work” for the next block of events.
“I am very happy that I finished this race. I did a lot of work here. For sure, I went out and am not dead, or tired. I am OK,” Sagan said before the start of the 10.1km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto.
“We will see how I am going in the next races for sure. It’s not an easy period for me now. I believe it’s going to be better and better the next races.”
The Slovakian, who owns seven Tour de France green points classification titles, had not tallied a single digit in the points classification when the race reached San Benedetto del Tronto today. Across the seven days, he was 130th in the field of 159 finishers, more than one hour and seven minutes behind GC winner Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates).
The points competition was secured by Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), with rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix) finishing third. The two riders took four stage wins, but Sagan said he will be back soon to contest for those prizes.
“It is for sure a big show on television. You can see the guys want to try for GC and also the stages in a different way. It’s nice to see, but still I am not to compare if I am in good condition there. I should be also in the front, but now I am in a different level and I try to be back again soon.”
And 'soon' means the former world champion will line up in four days to start Milan-San Remo, then two days he'll later make his debut in the Volta a Catalunya WorldTour stage race. This will him get back to speed for a second Giro appearance, followed by the unrelenting schedule with the Tour de France, Olympic Games and World Championships, he says.
“For now, everything is confirmed. We’ll see after the Classics. We are going to 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.
“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.
“The season is already on. I mean to do a good job. I did good work here. I try to do Cataluyna 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 spent more than six weeks at Gran Canaria, which began as a training camp with two teammates, his brother Juraj and Erik Baška. First, he had a crash during training, then all three riders tested positive for COVID-19 coronavirus, resulting in the extended stay in Spain.
“I had lost my scent and felt very tired. I had no fever, no other symptoms. So that went well,” he told Het Laatste Nieuws. “I had to start training again very calmly. One hour, one and a half hours and then another day of rest. I went hiking in the mountains for an hour and felt tired again. Then I had to sleep for two hours again. I ended up losing three weeks. Three weeks is a lot in that time of the year.
“My brother Juraj and my teammate Erik Baška were with me. We stayed in the same house, we had a garden and the weather was nice. It was much better than an apartment. Having three in quarantine was much better than alone.
“I did some core stability exercises, that was also the only thing I could do in the lockdown in Monaco last year. But after those exercises I had to recover for two hours, my muscles ached, my body felt heavy and I slept much more than usual. That's how I knew I was ill.”
In the interview, Sagan said it was difficult to not to be with his son and his family, but video calls made it easier. His mother is secluded in a care facility in Slovakia and is not permitted visitors, and his father is well but will not be able to attend Milan-San Remo as he has in the past.
“Now we are a year later and the pandemic continues. Nobody knows what will happen this year. Will that be like last year? Do the borders open and then close again? There is uncertainty about the vaccination. I wish it would be over soon.”
His focus for the immediate future, however, is on racing.
“I started the Tirreno with little preparation. Milan-Sanremo will be a lottery for me. That can turn out well or badly. And then another week of hard racing awaits me in the Volta a Catalunya. I'll give it a try and we'll see what it turns out to be. Another week of hard racing seems to us to be the best way to prepare for the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“Just you wait, I'll be back. Don't worry. That's the way it goes in a career. You can get sick or crash. And then you are out for six months or a year. You can't compare me to them now. We will see when I am completely top again.”
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