Peter Sagan is winning again, just in time
After an early season temporarily derailed by COVID-19, forcing an alternate track to the biggest Classics of the season, Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is winning again. Just in time.
Sagan took a comfortable victory in the sixth stage of Volta a Catalunya, crossing the line without even raising his arms in celebration. His expression, or lack of one, spoke of a box checked and a step taken. Winning, once again, is possible.
The finale twisted and turned through the town of Mataró and lacked any real control from the major teams, just the sort of finish Sagan has always liked. He won handily over Daryl Impey (Israel Start-Up Nation) and Juan Molano (UAE Team Emirates).
Eight days remain until the Tour of Flanders. Two weeks until Paris-Roubaix.
Sagan opted for the difficult, lumpy stage race as preparation for his classics goals, rather than the usual string of northern one-days. He has never been afraid to mix up his early season prep, often skipping out on some of the northern semi-classics peppered throughout March. But this season was particularly topsy-turvy, as Sagan tested positive for COVID-19 at a training camp in Gran Canaria, along with his brother Juraj and teammate Erik Baska.
Sagan skipped the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche and chose Tirreno-Adriatico to kickstart his racing form, remaining relatively quiet throughout the week. He entered Milano-Sanremo without so much as a single star by his name in most European papers; written off, for the first time in a long time, as a possible winner. He came in fourth anyway.
Rather than ride E3 Harelbeke, which is a mini Tour of Flanders, and Gent-Wevelgem, a race he’s won three times, Sagan headed to Catalunya for seven stages that couldn’t be further, structurally and substantively, from the cobbles and cold of northern Europe. He needed the hours in the saddle, and on the nose of it, chasing climbers and his own form.
Catalunya ends tomorrow, and Sagan will head north. Though Wout and Mathieu now dominate headlines in the way Sagan once did, I’d put a few stars next to his name for the Ronde on Sunday.