Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) was in typically relaxed mood as he made his way towards his bike ahead of another pre-Tour Down Under training ride on Wednesday. The three-time former world champion is once again using the WorldTour opener to kick-off his campaign but admitted to Cyclingnews that his training this winter has been less intense than in previous seasons as he looks to carry his form later into the spring and potentially make his Liege-Bastogne-Liege debut.
"I arrived on January 4 and I’ve been training here since then. It’s much better weather than back in Europe, so I’ve been able to get in the kilometres. The plan in the race is to keep on getting in more kilometres, but I don’t really know what to expect from the racing. I’ll take it day-by-day as I have in the past and we’ll see what the result is," Sagan told Cyclingnews.
In the last two seasons, Bora-Hansgrohe have rocked up at the Tour Down Under with both Sagan and Sam Bennett vying for the sprints. The Irishman is absent this year, and although Jay McCarthy is a decent bet for the overall podium, Sagan remains Bora’s best weapon for the bunch sprints on stages 1 and 2. Last year Sagan won stage 4 and the Tour Down Under’s warm-up race, the People’s Choice Classic. Even if he’s not at his best, Sagan has the ability to contest all but two of this year’s Tour Down Under stages.
"Sam is not here but I don’t think that I’m in better condition than I was last year," Sagan added.
"I’m going to start progressing as the race goes on, but this has been the plan, to start a bit slower and then build up. Each year the season is longer and longer. I’m going to take it easier, but we’ll see for the sprints. I’ll try if I feel good, and I’ll try if I feel bad. I expect to be in the front but I’m not sure if I have enough. I’ve had good training this winter but there’s been less intensity to it.
"Last year in the criterium win I had a lot of luck. I think so, anyway. I was a little behind but then the race just opened up for me. There was a slight headwind, and that helped me coming from the back."
After the Tour Down Under Sagan will jet to Argentina and the Tour de San Juan in order to continue his progress towards the spring Classics. He will once again target the one-day races from Milan-San Remo until Paris-Roubaix, while Liege-Bastogne-Liege remains pencilled in. The slightly less intense training over the winter is part of the plan as he looks to go deeper into the Classics and take part in the Ardennes. However, any real hopes for Liege-Bastogne-Liege rest on his form and fitness after Paris-Roubaix concludes. Sagan has never raced the Belgian Monument.
"There are four or five days between here and Argentina, but I start slower this year. We’ll see where I am after Paris-Roubaix. If I’m done then, then it might not make sense to go for Liege."