MIDWEEK MATTERS: Milan-San Remo, can Sagan be beaten?
Peter Sagan is the overwhelming favourite to win the Spring Classic Milan-San Remo on Saturday. However, there are plenty of sharks ready to steal the victory on the Poggio Di San Remo. Can the World Champion be beaten? Sports Gazette discusses.
Yes, he can and Fernando Gaviria is the man to do it
Mats Fredrix, Extra-Time and Tennis Editor
If this year's Tirreno-Adriatico has taught us one thing, it is that the Slovakian legend can be beaten. In stage six, which has a very similar finish to the Classicissima's, Quick-Step Floors sprinter Fernando Gaviria managed to keep the world champion at bay - edging him out in a man-to-man sprint.
Of course, the 168km before that sprint are nothing compared to the gruelling 300km the riders will face before pulling towards the finish line in San Remo.
But the young Colombian has already proven his worth. He was strong in last year's edition, but was held back from battling it out in the sprint by a heart-breaking crash with the finish line in sight. Now a year older and wiser, he is ready to go at it again, and maybe even more importantly, he has the team to do it.
In fact, just as much as this is a 'no' plea for Sagan, it is a 'yes' for the whole Quick-Step Floors team. While Sagan has "no team" to back him up this year, Gaviria has all the strength behind him Quick-Step Floors manager Patrick Lefevere can muster.
Gaviria has one of the most experienced riders in the peleton, the retiring Belgian legend Tom Boonen, to captain him. Lefevere has said Boonen will coach the 22-year-old, telling him where to attack and where to sit quiet.
Just as more experience - in Belgian Philippe Gilbert - there's also more youthful talent. Julien Alaphilippe, fresh from a fruitful display at Paris-Nice, might just be the surprise people are counting on.
Yes, Sagan might still be the stellar favourite. Just because he is strong enough to ride up the Poggio all by himself, which he will have to do because he really does not have a team. However, he admitted himself that Milan-San Remo is special and, over the last years, it was never the favourite who eventually won it.
And if Quick-Step Floors somehow manage to completely mess it up, how about this list of sharks to nick Sagan's victory.
John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data), Arnaud Demare (FDJ), Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) or Greg Van Avermaet (BMC)
No - Sagan will win
Ross Champion, Cycling and Tennis editor
Of course Sagan will win. He’s Peter Sagan.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet that Mats won’t be able to justify his ridiculous notion that Sagan will be beaten in Milan-San Remo - instead resorting to tangents involving his fellow Belgians Tom Boonen and Greg Van Avermaet.
I don’t blame hime though. Sagan is so good that Wikipedia has had to create a separate page just to accommodate and catalogue his myriad palmares.
I bet he’s also commented on Gaviria’s victory over Sagan in the penultimate stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico.
Okay, yes, it happened. But let’s not forget that Sagan had already crushed the young Colombian twice on the tour and was probably bored of winning all the time.
If they want to win, the other riders in the race have two options. They either attack on Milan-San Remo’s final climb (the Poggio) and attempt to win solo or they wait and try to win in a bunch sprint.
Neither will work though. Sagan is more than capable of marking an attack from the likes of Degenkolb or Van Avermaet while at the same time almost certain to decimate any sprinter who actually manages to get over the Poggio.
The pure sprinters, such as Cavendish, Ewan and Viviani, are unlikely to be in the front group after the Poggio and, even if they are, will have spent too much energy to challenge Sagan in a race for the finish.
It really doesn’t matter that he won’t have an army of riders working for him either - he’s shown time and time again that he can do it all by himself.
After all, how many stages of the Tour de France did Cavendish win with the ‘full force’ of Quick Step behind him in 2015? How about Kittel in 2016? Not many.
Peter Sagan is an absolute phenomenon of modern cycling and I for one will be backing him to win the 108th edition of Milan-San Remo.