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Returning to action after putting in one of the most impressive rides of his career in the Tour of California, Peter Sagan has the sound of a rider who suddenly has had a lot of pressure taken off his shoulders.
The Tinkoff-Saxo rider will recommence racing in the Tour de Suisse on Saturday, and will received the full backing of the team in his bid for stage victories in the run up to the Tour de France.
In contrast to the stress he was under when trying to get back into winning form heading into California, he heads into Switzerland knowing that he has already won big and without that same pressure.
“I’m very happy and excited to take part in the Tour de Suisse,” he said. “I’m back racing in Europe and I feel in very good shape.
“After a very positive Tour of California, I look forward to having more fun with the guys in Switzerland”, says Peter Sagan.”
Also on the team is Rafal Majka, the rider who picked up two stage wins in last year’s Tour and was also King of the Mountains. He, along with others, will support Sagan, but will likely get his own backing on stage 5 to Sölden.
The team regards it as the only proper mountain stage in this year’s race, noting that it finishes atop a HC climb that is 2669 kilometres in altitude.
Directeur sportif Sean Yates sees this as an opportunity of Majka has the legs on the day.
“From what we know, Rafal is going well,’ he said. “It could be promising for stage five, which is bloody hard and will be a daunting challenge for everyone. But the most important factor is that he builds shape ahead of the Tour, where he will be a very valuable support to Alberto [Contador] in the high mountains.
“Rafal wants to try hard and he will try hard to build form, so there’s no pressure on him, but if he has the day, then he can be up there or thereabout. And then we’ll see how he’s positioned in the GC before the final decisive TT.”
Contador recently won the Giro d’Italia and in order to recover from that, will eschew both the Critérium du Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse.
That frees things up for the other Tinkoff Saxo riders to have their chance. Yates feels that it is important that the team keeps its momentum going from the Giro.
“We would like to win a stage or more if possible. We’re looking to keep the momentum we had in May, while focusing on the build-up towards the Tour,” he said.
“With the form Peter Sagan has been showing, he’ll naturally have the support from the team to go for stage wins. It’s a race that suits him well with several lumpy stage finishes and we know that Peter is very good at sprinting uphill.
“Looking at the profile of the prologue, it suits Peter as well, so he could win there and take the yellow jersey, where we would then defend it to a certain extent.”
Yates says the nine-stage, 1321 kilometre race is a chance for the Slovakian to build his confidence prior to July’s bigger event.
“We have a combination of guys who can support him on the road throughout the stages, and guys who have the top speed to lead him into a good position before the final sprint such as Daniele Bennati, Matti Breschel and Michael Mørkøv.”
Also on the team will be Nikolay Trusov, Pavel Brutt and Michael Valgren.
The team previously won the race with Fabian Cancellara in 2009 and Frank Schleck the following year.