Sagan the ‘Hulk’ promises more hijinks in France

Cannondale speedster hopes to retain the green jersey he won last year

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PORTO VECCHIO, France (VN) — Last year, Peter Sagan’s alter ego was the Terminator. This year? It’s the Hulk.

The Slovak with speed even has a new Cannondale bike with a customized paint job to go along with it.

After smashing through his Tour de France debut last year, Sagan predicts more stomping in his sophomore effort.

The defending green jersey winner, who brought some youthful exuberance to his finish-line celebrations last year, promises to keep things fun in his second crack at the Tour.

“We’ve already practiced a few yesterday. I hope it will be funny for you,” Sagan said of possible finish-line celebrations. “Maybe the fans like to see a spectacle. They take their vacations to see the race. They line the roads. They want to see something exciting. It’s also a way of saying thanks to them.”

The 23-year-old vows to try to top his phenomenal 2012 Tour debut, when he won three stages and the green jersey to confirm his arrival in the sport.

This year, Cannondale brings a solid team built around Sagan and his quest to defend the points title.

“We have a strong team to help me protect the green jersey,” Sagan said. “I am not a pure sprinter, but I will be challenging for the sprints every chance I get. I cannot say now how many stages I might try to win. It’s also important to have luck and avoid crashes.”

Sagan has gotten faster since last summer. He barnstormed through the spring, winning Ghent-Wevelgem and Brabantse Pijl, and claimed second at Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Milano-San Remo, E3 Harelbeke, and Strade Bianchi.

After a break, he returned to win two stages and the points jersey at the , and the same at the Tour de Suisse. To cap it off, he won the national title just before coming to Corsica.

Sagan was impressive at the Swiss tour, winning a bunch sprint and then taking a climbing stage. How far can he go? Sagan said he doesn’t even know.

“That’s the beautiful thing. I am still discovering my limits,” he said. “I know I won’t be making the GC. With the long climbs, that’s my weakness. That’s my limit.”

Take away the big alpine climbs, Sagan can do just about everything else.

That will be his advantage as he lines up against Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and others in the battle for the green jersey.

“I am not only the sprints. I can try to get up some climbs, too. I have a team to help me in the sprints, but the other [sprint] teams will be controlling the sprint stages,” Sagan said. “Even if I am not as strong as the pure sprinters, I can still try to stay with them. I can do other things, too. I am not just limited to the sprints.”

With the help of Tour rookies Ted King and Moreno Moser, Sagan will be the head of the Cannondale ship all the way to Paris.

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