The return of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) to the Vuelta a España this Saturday could hardly go unnoticed given both his status as three-times world champion, and the dramatic way that he quit the Vuelta three years ago.
“Good memories and bad memories, always everything is together,” was the somewhat poetic way Sagan had of summing up his recollections of the Vuelta on Thursday, a race in which he took his first-ever Grand Tour stage wins back in 2011. It’s also a race that he quit in 2015, injured after colliding with an in-race motorbike.
Sagan told reporters in Malaga, where the race starts on Saturday, that he is aiming to have a good race, “and after that we will see,” he said. But he also admitted that he was “not yet at 100 per cent” after crashing in the Pyrenees during the Tour de France.
Sagan’s memories of the Vuelta stretch back to 2011 when, as a second year pro, he won the final stage in Madrid, as well as stages 6 and 12, He also remembered the 2014 edition when he “had a virus and could only do nine, ten or 11 days before quitting”.
“Then in 2015, I won some stages, I think,” said Sagan, who won stage 3 into Málaga. “And after I had a bad crash, but it happens.” He agreed, with a laugh, with one reporter’s joking suggestion that it was thanks to that crash he had gone on to win in Richmond’s Worlds.
Sagan’s primary target this year, he said, are stage wins, with a first chance to do so coming on stage 2 to Caminito del Rey. This was initially described as the Vuelta’s ninth summit finish, but now, after it was shortened in length, it has been reclassified as an ‘uphill sprint’ and likely to favour racers like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida), narrowly defeated on a similar uphill in Paris-Nice this spring, and Sagan himself.
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