Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) proved he is a huge sprinting talent and a true world championship contender by taking his third stage victory at this year's Vuelta a España in Madrid
The 21-year-old Slovakian has the speed and the instinct to win almost at will and the slightly uphill in the center of Madrid finish suited him perfectly.
Sagan made sure he was on the right wheel in the final kilometer, moving from Bennati's to Petacchi's as the sprint began. Then as Petacchi moved across the road to challenge Bennati close to the barriers, Sagan took a straighter line to the finish and won with a well-timed bike throw.
"The Vuelta was a kind of bet for me: To see what I could do in a three week stage race and see how I handled the climbs and the sprints after so much racing. I've made it to Madrid and won three stages, so I have to be happy. I couldn't have asked for more," Sagan said after holding up three fingers to indicate his three stage wins.
Sagan explained how he won the sprint: "I was on Bennati's wheel but I got boxed in a bit and I had to stop my effort. I had to go again and I was a bit behind, so it was hard. But I was still fresh because my team protected me during the whole stage. It was a technical finishing circuit, exactly how I like them and I was feeling good, despite being tired after three weeks of racing."
Although still only 21, Sagan will ride the Elite men's race at the world championships. He is not eligible to ride the Under 23 race because he is part of a WorldTour ProTeam. Slovakia has only qualified a three-rider team but Sagan will have excellent support from Martin and Peter Velits.
"I'm trying not to think about the world championship," he explained. "It’s difficult to plan for the race because so much goes into winning the world title. You need to be lucky and team work is important too. But I know my form is good. We'll see how it goes but whatever happens I’m happy with my season. At the start of the year, I didn’t think that I could win all these races."
The Tour de France in 2012
Sagan has so far won 14 races this season, including overall victory at the early season Giro di Sardegna and the more recent Tour de Pologne. In 2012 he wants to test himself on a bigger stage: the Tour de France, where he would be a contender for the green points jersey.
"I know what I’m good at and I want to remain who I am. I can hang on during some climbs and I’m fast in a sprint. I know I'm lucky that I am a sprinter and I want to develop that skill even more," he said.
"Next season I want to do the Tour de France. It’s a famous race, so I want to give it a try. I've only seen it on television but I know it’s different to the Vuelta, it’s more nervous but also more important. I want to do the Tour next year, as it could be the best preparation for the Olympic Games."