Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) preferred not to stop after finishing eighth at Strade Bianche, pedalling as fast as possible through the passionate tifosi that had invaded the finish area in Piazza del Campo. Sagan spent all of the 184 kilometres and five hours of racing protected in a black rainbow cape covering up his white world champion’s jersey.
He was not strong enough to go with the attacks of Romain Bardet, Wout van Aert and then Tiesj Benoot but tried to close the gap several times from the chase group. He fought his way up the steep climb to Siena, finishing 2:08 behind Benoot.
Sagan had played down his chances of success after only recently completing an altitude training camp and the wet and muddy conditions meant there was nowhere to hide in this year’s Strade Bianche. As usual, Sagan tried to see the positive side of his performance.
"I’m pretty tired but I’m upbeat because after the training I’ve done at altitude, it’s always hard to start racing again. I think things will only get better," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport before climbing onto the Bora-Hansgrohe team bus for a long warm shower. "I was happy to stay on my bike… I suffered but it’s normal. I hadn’t trained much this week because of the bad weather.
"There is no doubt that Strade Bianche lived up to its reputation this year with a very hard day under difficult weather conditions," Sagan later added in a team press release. "We showed we had a strong squad with Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt and Gregor Mühlberger doing great work at the front. I'm happy with today's result, although, obviously, we could have wished for more. However, it's just the beginning of my European races and there is a long way ahead of us."
Like many of the riders in action at Strade Bianche, Sagan headed to the Tuscan coast on Saturday evening to rest up for Tirreno-Adriatico, which begins in Lido di Camaiore on Wednesday. It will be Sagan’s final stage race before Milan-San Remo and his annual stint in Belgium for the Cobbled Classics.
Sagan and Bora-Hansgrohe are confident the work done at the altitude camp will pay of over the next seven weeks.
"I think we saw that our guys were in good shape and for some of them it was their first race after a long training period. In my opinion, they were strong but maybe not strong enough, yet, to win the race," Bora-Hansgrohe directeur sportif Enrico Poitschke admitted.
"With 30km to go, when the attacks came, I feel Peter didn't have the best legs but I'm definitely sure he will get better at the Tirreno-Adriatico as he gets back to racing mode. I'm satisfied with what we achieved today, in a day that in my view was best suited for the climbers. Today's conditions and parcours were more for them."
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