Peter Sagan has matured over the past five years in the professional ranks - could 2014 be his biggest season yet?
Peter Sagan (Cannondale) kept calm under pressure and struck, winning in Arezzo’s ancient streets this afternoon at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race.
“You got to know who is strong and who isn’t,” Sagan said. “I saw [Philippe] Gilbert go but it was early. I knew to follow him and use him for a sprint lead-out.”
Sagan won the most races – 22 – last year. The third stage of Tirreno-Adriatico that covered 210 kilometres through Tuscany was this year’s second victory. It underscored just how much the 24-year-Slovak has matured since turning professional in 2010.
Tinkoff-Saxo and Omega Pharma-Quick Step led towards the final ramp into Arezzo. The finish suited Sagan: a sprint with a twist. The final one kilometre rose at an average of five per cent and included pave and a kick of 11 per cent. Sagan, however, appeared washed away at two kilometres out.
“It was very confusing and dangerous in the last kilometres,” Sagan said. “I was up and down in the group. My team-mate brought me up in the last three kilometres but then I lost my spot. Luckily, I found Daniele Bennati [team Tinkoff] and he helped me to the front.”
Sagan won ahead of Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma), Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEdge) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing).
The coolness under pressure will serve Sagan well as he aims for his first monument over the coming month in Milan-San Remo, the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix.
“He physically developed and learnt lessons over the last few years,” sports director, Stefano Zanatta told Cycling Weekly. “Peter learnt how to train and how to prepare for the races. He’s become able to understand when he can have his chance to win or when it is better to help a team-mate. Everything has started to become more normal for him.”
Sagan struck in perhaps his only chance this week. Two mountain stages are on tap this weekend that suit Sky’s Richie Porte and Bradley Wiggins or new overall leader, Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma). The organiser scheduled a flat sprint stage on Monday and a short time trial on Tuesday. That sense of carpe diem will serve Sagan next Sunday in the first of the monuments, Milan-San Remo.
“I’ve taken all the experiences in over these last five years,” Sagan said. “I’ve learnt to ride 200 kilometres, I couldn’t do that in my first year. I’ve improved and have experience about how races are decided. That helps me keep calm.”