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by Shane Stokes
February 11, 2015
Commenting on his high profile new signing, Oleg Tinkov has made his expectations clear with regards to Peter Sagan.
The Slovakian rider inked a multi-million euro deal to race for the Tinkoff Saxo team, moving across from Cannondale, and his new boss wants him to raise his game and prove his talent by bringing his career to a new level.
“I want him to win two or three big Classics,” he told AS. “If he doesn’t succeed I will feel upset, but I’m not going to kill him.”
Asked to specify which races in particular he would like him to triumph in, he nominated two of the biggest.
“San Remo, which is called la Classicissima by some, and the Tour of Flanders. However I prefer Flanders to the others, it is considered special by the fans due to the cobbles, the dirt and the difficulty.”
Sagan’s success at a young age marked out his ability but while he has achieved big things to date including three green jerseys in the Tour de France, four stage wins, three stages in the Vuelta a España and victories in races such as Gent-Wevelgem, Brabantse Pijl, the GP Cycliste de Montréal and E3 Harelbeke.
However his tactics have at times appeared to be lacking, leading to other successes slipping away. In addition to that, a Monument win is still missing.
Sagan has gone close in the past, netting runner-up slots in Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders and Strade Bianche, as well as third in the Amstel Gold Race and sixth in Paris-Roubaix.
This time round, he’s being paid a considerable amount to win and also has a stronger team backing him. As a result Tinkov is clear in his expectations.
It’s not all pressure, though; he sets out high targets for the 25 year old in the one day races, but makes clear that it is not imperative that Sagan repeats his Maillot Vert success of the past three years.
Instead, he wants he and others on the team to primarily concentrate on backing the rider who is trying to win overall.
“In France we will focus on a unique challenge: the yellow jersey for Alberto [Contador],” he said. “If Peter takes green and [Rafal] Majka the mountains jersey, we are not going to refuse them. But that would be a bonus.”
Tinkov also makes clear that he believes Contador has what it takes to win a third Tour, but also to go further in 2015.
Asked if he felt that it was possible the Spaniard could achieve his goal of becoming the first Giro d’Italia/Tour de France winner since Marco Pantani in 1998, he showed little doubt.
“I do not [just] think so, he will,’ he predicted. “He has focused his schedule and preparation for this dual purpose.”
Given that Contador said in 2011 that his victory in the Giro d’Italia affected him in the Tour de France, it seems that something has changed in that he believes he can now win both.
It’s nevertheless a gamble, particularly as the other big Tour contenders are avoiding the Giro in order to be fresh in July.
Tinkov emphasised that the goal of aiming for both events was Contador’s alone. “Nobody pushed him. He has chosen to do this Giro and Tour 2015, and we support him in his decision,” he said.
“If someone has the ability to do it, it is Alberto. Maybe he will get the double Giro-Tour and leave [retire] on top. Or maybe he will continue for two or three years.
“We have not spoken about that and will not push him in his decision, although he will retire at the Tinkoff [team].”