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After opting out of the opening weekend of cobbled racing at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, Peter Sagan will begin his 2018 season in earnest in Tuscany at Strade Bianche.
The three-time world road champion will ride into Siena, Italy Saturday with his rainbow jersey after a high-altitude training camp in Sierra Nevada, Spain.
After finishing second at Omloop and winning Kuurne in 2017, it came as some surprise when Sagan decided not to race at the February Belgian races. Omloop, now a WorldTour race, takes on a number of the key cobbled climbs found in the Tour of Flanders, which Sagan won in 2016. Instead, Astana’s Michael Valgren shocked the favorites with a win Saturday at Omloop. Emerging Dutch sprinter Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) won Kuurne.
“The idea is to be hitting the first peak for the northern classics,” said Bora sport director Patxi Vila. “Peter already has a place in history with three world titles. Now he wants to win more monuments.”
Sagan hasn’t raced since his season debut at the Santos Tour Down Under, where he won a stage. He will face a familiar rival in Saturday’s race. BMC Racing’s Greg Van Avermaet, winner of the 2017 Paris-Roubaix, will be a favorite. Van Avermaet finished anonymously in Omloop and Kuurne but has already notched one win this season, stage 3 at the Tour of Oman.
The classics stars might face a tougher challenge in this edition of Strade Bianche, as Italy has seen some very wintery weather the past few days. The forecast through the end of the week does not look promising either.
Sagan has twice finished second on Italy’s white dirt roads. Last year, he was forced to abandon Strade Bianche due to illness. For 2018, he brings a strong Bora-Hansgrohe team to the 12th edition of the race.
He will be joined by classics workhorse Daniel Oss, a new addition to the German outfit. Maciej Bodnar and German champion Marcus Burghardt will also be important support riders for Sagan in the 184-kilometer race. The lineup will also include Gregor Muhlberger, Christoph Pfingsten, and Aleksejs Saramotins.
Sagan’s 2018 schedule
Tour Down Under (stage win, 32nd overall)
Tour of Flanders
Tour of California
Tour de Suisse
Tour de France
— To be determined —