Sagan ready for Vuelta return after two-year absence

The Slovakian has indicated in recent days that he intends to race at the Spanish grand tour ahead of the UCI road worlds in Austria.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — World champion Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is ready to return to the Vuelta a España, which starts August 25, for the first time since 2015.

Sagan has excluded the Spanish grand tour from his program in recent years. His typical worlds build-up included the Tour of Poland and the two Canadian WorldTour races.

“I still have some races left,” Sagan said Sunday. “I have Hamburg and the Vuelta, and we will see. I will try to fight for my best at the end of the season.”

Sagan will use the season’s final grand tour as a build-up to the world championships in Innsbruck, Austria, September 23-30. The course could be too difficult for Sagan to win a record fourth world title, but no one wants to count him out — including Sagan himself.

The 28-year-old Slovakian rider typically races a few one-day races and the BinckBank Tour, a stage race that began Monday and that used to be called the Eneco Tour.

Instead, Sagan’s post-Tour de France racing program includes the European Championships (230.4km) and the EuroEyes Cyclassics Hamburg (220km) on Sunday.

He pulled out of Sunday’s European Championships, however, after 150km in Glasgow, Scotland. It was his first race since the Tour, where he won his sixth green jersey. Sagan said he was still feeling pain from his crash in stage 17 of the Tour.

“Despite the fact I still had a lot of pain in my back and hip, I tried and gave my best,” Sagan said in an Instagram post. “But I wasn’t in good shape and, unfortunately, after 150km of racing, I felt it would be best if I stopped, as it was becoming hard.

“It was a good training for the coming weeks but I still need to fully recover from my hard crash at the Tour de France, for the final part of the season. I’d like to thank the Slovak Cycling Federation, its staff, and all my teammates for their work today.”

Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team would not confirm his participation in the Vuelta, but he has indicated in recent days that he’ll be in the field. Last week, he posted another Instagram photo with the caption, “Hola España!”

Sagan counts four stage wins from the Vuelta in 2011 and 2015. This year, the field will include GC stars Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Alejandro Valverde and Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).

The Vuelta opens in Málaga with a time trial and offers several mixed-terrain and flat-finish stages that could suit Sagan. The numerous mountains could also help him prepare for a fourth straight world title. The worlds course in Innsbruck includes around 5,000 meters of climbing.

“Peter is the three-time world champion — he will be there out of respect of the world title and the world of cycling,” Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila said during the Tour. “Peter will show up in the best possible condition he can.”

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