Peter Sagan has always been an enigma in cycling. The 25-year-old Slovakian sprinter who can climb, break away, and ride the front of the Classics like a seasoned rouleur did little to clear up any mystery during his national team’s press conference Friday in Richmond.
Sagan eschewed talk of being a favourite and wouldn’t name any other riders he considered major contenders for Sunday’s World Championship road race, telling the assembled journalists at a suburban Holiday Inn conference room that thinking about it is a waste of time.
“It doesn’t matter what I can see or not, because it’s just losing time,” Sagan said. “Every year is different, and every year it’s been – not every year but the last two or three years – it’s been not the favourite riders. I think it’s for nothing thinking about favourites.”
The highly skilled bike handler who won a rainbow jersey at the junior mountain bike cross-country World Championships in 2008 and a silver medal in the junior cyclo-cross championships that same year, also wouldn’t be drawn out on how the weather will affect the race.
“It rains for everybody, so I don’t know,” he said.
Asked how he thinks the race will play out, if it will come down to a large group sprint, a sprint from a smaller group or a breakaway at the finish, Sagan was equally opaque.
“I can think of 10 stories about how it can be,” he said. “But everybody can tell you that.”
Sagan did say he believes the course in Richmond will be challenging and will create an exciting race.
“There is some recovery after the finish, but the last five kilometres is very hard,” he said. “It seems like Flanders. OK, the climbs are short, but with the cobblestones it will be very technical. And the finish is very, very tough. It will be a nice championships I think.”
Unlike some of the other “favourites” in the race, Sagan will have the support of just two countrymen over the 260km race. His brother Jure is on the Slovakian team along with Michal Kolar.
The Slovakian trio will have to compete against eight- and nine-rider teams like Spain, Colombia, Belgium, Italy, Netherlands, France and Australia. Sagan indicated that he and his teammates will need to play off the other larger teams.
“Like every year,” he said. “We are not a national team for making the race, no? We must stick together and if somebody has some problem, a technical problem, we can exchange something, maybe a wheel or a bike. Because also the cobblestones and I think it will be a very big mess if something happens. Just be in the front, and that’s it, that’s all you can do.”
Freelancing his way to a win is not uncommon for Sagan, who has won four consecutive green jerseys in the Tour de France while riding for teams that don’t always supply him with a proper lead-out train. Asked if that experience bodes well for Sunday, Sagan was also non-committal.
“We’ll see also if it’s like this way,” he said. “It can be. But yeah, I don’t know. I never think about it.”
Since he crashed out of the Vuelta after being hit by a race moto, Sagan has been preparing for Worlds with trips to altitude training camps in Colorado and Utah, but he said Friday that he’s not sure of where his condition is ahead of Sunday’s final test.
“We will see Sunday what I can do.”