Peter Sagan had always shrugged off questions about why he had failed to win in recent months and he was equally unemotional and unmoved after finally taking his first victory for Tinkoff-Saxo in Porto Sant'Elpidio on stage 6 of Tirreno-Adriatico.
For the talented Slovakian rider it was never a question of if he would ever win again but only a matter of when. Sagan finally hit the line first after the rain-soaked stage to Porto Sant'Elpidio, beating Gerald Ciolek (MTN-Qhubeka) and Jens Debusschere (Lotto-Soudal).
"Finishing second so often was bad because I wanted to win," Sagan said. "How many second places did I get? 15 or something? That's a lot… First would have been better. But I took not winning as experience for life: sometimes you are up and sometimes you are down. That's life, it's okay."
Sagan explained that his early season racing has been a series of ups and downs.
"I had a bad crash in Qatar but I felt okay, not bad. But then it was very hot in Oman and I don't like that, even if it was good for my fitness. I didn't feel 100 percent at Strade Bianche but then felt okay here. I think I had the legs to win in Arezzo but I made a mistake in finish. However saying all that, I think it's important not to think about second places but to think to the future," he said.
Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov quickly took to Twitter after Sagan's victory, suggesting that big-name riders are always under pressure and that a "multi-million euro contract […] makes it even more." Sagan is reportedly earning close to €4 million a season with Tinkoff-Saxo, and he seemed nonplussed by Tinkov's tweet.
"Things are good in the team but I think contracts are drawn up based on results," he said. "I did well in the last four years and you've got to deserve your contract, nobody gets a contract in the WorldTour for nothing. I'm happy that I managed to win but I, and I think the team, expects a lot more from the season. A rider puts the pressure on himself, I don't think other people can do that.
"For sure it's better now. I've been trying to win from the start of season and I'm very happy for this victory. I have to thank to all my teammates today, they did a lot of hard work and did a good job. I think winning is important for me and for all the team. It's good for our confidence.
"I have to thank Alberto [Contador] today. It was nice that a rider like Alberto pulled on the climb to break-up the group and put the sprinters in difficulty. The team also pulled for the last 80 kilometres or so."
Not everything went perfectly for Tinkoff-Saxo at Tirreno-Adriatico, of course. Alberto Contador failed to win overall and is unlikely to even finish on the final podium after Tuesday's 10km time trial. Sagan also confirmed that Daniele Bennati had pulling out during Monday's stage due to an Achilles heel problem.
Sagan and Tinkoff-Saxo will be hoping he the team's road captain can recover in time for Milan-San Remo. After finally taking his first win of the season, Sagan is the natural favourite for the first big Classic of the season. The pressure for the next win is already on.