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LES SAINTES-MARIES-DE-LA-MER, France (VN) – A longtime member of Peter Sagan’s close-knit cohort of key racing allies and a Tour de France stage winner in 2017, Polish rouleur Maciej Bodnar has no doubts that three-time world champion Sagan can still contend for and win the sport’s most prestigious prizes with their new Total Energies team.
Speaking to VeloNews at the start of the second stage of the Tour de la Provence and soon after the announcement by ASO that Total Energies was awarded one of the two wild card places for the Tour de France, Bodnar asserted: “I’m still convinced that Peter can win the biggest races. Of course, the years pass faster and faster, but I still believe Peter will start his racing campaign in his best shape.”
The 36-year-old Polish all-rounder, who won the Marseille time trial at the end of the 2017 Tour, added that he had no doubts about Sagan’s motivation and that it’s certainly too early to write off the Slovak, even if he has taken a step down from the WorldTour level by joining Total Energies.
“Of course, it’s a pity about him getting Covid again recently, but he’ll be back soon and I’m sure that he’ll be ready,” said Bodnar.
Asked about ASO’s confirmation of Total Energies Tour de France invitation, the Pole’s delight was obvious.
“It’s nice to have the news that we’ve got our place. I think we’re a big team and of course, we really wanted to be there,” said Bodnar, who has ridden the Tour on six previous occasions, making five of those appearances alongside Sagan.
“It’s going to be nice for me personally to ride the Tour with a French team for the first time, which must be a special feeling. To be able to ride the biggest race on a French team, with French sponsors, and with French fans is great news. I just need to do all I can now to be selected.”
He added, though, that the Tour is still a long way off and there are other objectives that he and the Total Energies team will be focusing on.
“Of course, the classics are certainly the first objective. And, as we’ve seen already at the Saudi Tour and the Étoile de Bessèges, the team is really well prepared.
“I don’t know how things were here before, but I can say that we’re all very motivated now and the results are already starting to come. I think we’ll win a lot of races this season. The atmosphere in the team is super good.”
Bodnar quickly underlined his point about Total Energies’ good start to the season by getting into the front group on the wind-hit second stage of the Tour de la Provence on the exposed roads of the Camargue marshland along with team leader Pierre Latour.
Encouraged by Latour to attack in the closing kilometers, Bodnar made a late sortie that was chased down by Ineos’s race leader Filippo Ganna as the British team sought to set up Elia Viviani for a sprint finish.
“The goal of the team was to protect Peter – sorry Pierre!” Bodnar explained immediately after the finish. “Towards the end, Pierre told me, ‘If you want, you can go.’ I wasn’t thinking about making an attack, but I saw some gaps behind him and decided to go. I didn’t look back until I saw that Ganna was coming up on me.”
Once again Bodnar expressed his happiness at being with Total Energies. “There’s a really good spirit here and even at 36, and about to turn 37 next month, I’ve still got a lot of motivation to do well with this team.”