Peter Sagan now has three stage wins in the US Pro Cycling Challenge and he hasn’t even reached Denver. The final stage in the capital of Colorado is flat and sprinter invitation only. He’s going to paint the town lime-green.
After Sagan’s Cannondale teammates burned themselves out helping to bring back the break, he took matters into his own hands and legs and beat Luka Mezgec (Argos-Shimano) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC).
If you wanted an explanation of his dominance, you didn’t need to watch the race video, just listen to him in the post-race press conference. A writer from the Denver Post newspaper asked him a smart question: had any other sprinter in the race ever beaten him in a sprint?
At first, Sagan, who is still picking up the English language, didn’t seem to understand. Then he got some help from the press guy sitting next to him who pointed at the roster sheet for all the riders in the race and then repeated the question.
Sagan smiled and tried to be diplomatic with his broken English. First, no other team brought a top level sprinter to the race; second, nobody else had a dedicated lead-out train and third, well, nobody else has anywhere near the talent of Sagan. (Nobody else can ride a wheelie across the finish line either.)
“I think too many sprinters is not here,” said Sagan. “Other teams have good sprinters here and also try and win stage but I am happy for when I can win and now … I don’t know what …”
Yes, what can the man say? He’s trying to be nice but the fact is, Luka Mezgec isn’t Cavendish and Van Avermaet isn’t Marcel Kittel. (Last year in Colorado, Garmin-Sharp’s Tyler Farrar won two sprints but he didn’t make the trip and in my memory has never beaten Sagan either. (No Tour de France or US Pro for the battling buddhist.)
You could argue that the rider who had the best shot at beating Sagan today wasn’t a sprinter at all. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Rory Sutherland, who normally aims for a high GC finish, make a cheeky late attack that was pulled back just a few hundred meters for payday.
Sagan wasn’t too worried about another sprinter or non-sprinter. “He attacked too early. There were too many riders on the front for the wind. We start the sprint a little bit late. It was too early to sprint.” And thus, Sutherland fades to seventh place.
The Fastvakian has Colorado to himself and you’d be delusional to think anybody but Sagan will win in Denver on Sunday. He scored his 17th win of the season in Fort Collins and number 18 is fast approaching.
To quote Sagan again, “too many sprinters is not here.”