Peter Sagan might have lost out on retaining his world title for a fourth year in this season's hilly event in Innsbruck, Austria, but his coach Patxi Vila is looking to the 2019 Road World Championships in Yorkshire to put his Slovakian client back in rainbows.
"As long as Peter races, everyone will think of him for the world title," Vila tells Tuttobiciweb. "The victories of the past few years have made him the champion he is today. The World Championships in England is another great opportunity for him, and we will certainly work to get him into the maximum condition."
Sagan, who recently published a ghost-written biography My World, has stamped himself into the annals of cycling history through his results, his outgoing personality and charisma on and off the bike.
If he had to describe Sagan with three words, Vila picks "Honest, authentic, strong". His best quality is his transparency. "What you see is what you get," Vila says. On the down side, he says that Sagan "doesn't realize how strong he is."
"Sometimes he gets angry with others during the races, but he does not understand that not all the world can do what he does."
Vila explains how he works with Sagan on "Team Peter".
"Listening to your feelings is essential," he says. "Fun is important. You work hard, but the pranks and jokes never fail. In 'Team Peter' we are all aware that we are very fortunate to carry out this work, so we have to enjoy it.
"I always tell my riders that this profession should be carried out with passion and 100 per cent, every day, but in the end it is only a bike race. Basically it's a game and it's got to be like that. Peter is a special person, a unique athlete, he is not common. When you go to a race on the bus, there are thousands of people waiting for him, which is beautiful but everything but normal."
Vila does not know where Sagan's limits may be. "It's hard to say because there has never been anybody like him. All professional athletes are unique, they are exceptions. I attended university and studied some books, but there are no rules that apply to everyone. I can certainly say that he has not finished growing and we are working in this direction. When one is an 'out-of-control' talent it is difficult to find a way to improve further because nobody has traveled before him, but we are here on purpose."
Sagan's goals for the early part of the season will be similar to this year: San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, then the Tour de France for another run at the green jersey.
"Personally I am happy when I help my rider not to make the same mistakes I made in the past and he reaches his limits. I got excited when Bodnar won the Tour de France time trial as well as when Peter won Roubaix because I know how much work is behind those goals."