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Sagan not at Paris-Roubaix for a holiday

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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) looks calm before the start

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) looks calm before the start (Image credit: Cyclingnews)
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Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was left out of the fireworks on the Patersberg

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) was left out of the fireworks on the Patersberg (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Peter Sagan makes it look easy on the Koppenberg

Peter Sagan makes it look easy on the Koppenberg (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)

It's all but impossible for Peter Sagan to fly under the radar in the build-up to any race, but he certainly enters Paris-Roubaix without quite the same level of expectation or scrutiny that he faced in the build-up to Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders.

At the team presentation in Compiègne on Saturday afternoon, for instance, the biggest media scrums were reserved for the two doyens of the cobbles, Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen, while Sagan was able to slip through the mixed zone relatively hurriedly.

Sagan's disappointing 17th at the Tour of Flanders last weekend has reduced some of the external expectations and officially, at least, the word from Cannondale is that the Slovak is starting Paris-Roubaix for the first time since 2011 with the simple intention of gaining experience for future editions.

"It's my third time coming here. The first time I didn't finish and the second time I was just happy that I got to the finish. Now I'm here to take another experience and we'll see how it goes," Sagan told reporters in Compiègne

While that "other experience" of Paris-Roubaix undoubtedly encompasses staying with the likes of Cancellara and Boonen deep into the finale, Sagan was careful not to make any pronouncements as to his specific goals for the race.

He accepted, however, that while he is only the sixth favourite among the bookmakers, he will remain a marked man among his peers and will have little scope to try and anticipate Cancellara before the finale.

"I don't think the group will let me go in the breakaway so I just want to ride in the group and after I will see during the race," Sagan said. "After the Forest of Arenberg I will see how it's going.

"This race is very interesting for me and I want to do it well. It didn't go well when I did it before, but I was young. And like I always say, I'm still only 24 years old and I've got years ahead of me."

At a remove of six days, Sagan was also able to reflect on his performance at the Tour of Flanders, where he had appeared comfortable when part of an initial 13-man selection before the Taaienberg, but then found himself unable to follow Cancellara and Sep Vanmarcke when they accelerated on the Kwaremont.

"Every year I get a bit more experience and this year I saw that when Cancellara and the others went away, everybody was marking me," he said. "But I wasn't able to make the difference with the others, and in the end, I finished where I finished. It was still an experience."

Paris-Roubaix will be the final race of Sagan's spring campaign, and he will skip Amstel Gold Race before returning to action at the Tour of California as he builds towards the Tour de France.

Not that Sagan was allowing an end of term mentality creep into his preparations for the race, and he showed more than a flicker of his competitive spirit when asked if he had been disheartened ahead of Paris-Roubaix by his inability to follow Cancellara in Flanders.

"The result is not all in the sport," he said. "Ok, one race was not very good, but I'm still riding on the bike. What do you think I'm here for? A holiday?"

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