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Peter Sagan will race classics in 2013, but some think he can win a grand tour

MILAN (VN) — Peter Sagan will race a select set of classics this year, from Milan-San Remo to Amstel Gold, with the aim of winning at least one.

The 22-year-old Slovak star of team Cannondale plans to debut in the Tour de San Luis.

“I’ll go to Argentina right after the presentation in Los Angeles [January 15]. With Tom Boonen, that race will be a true battle. Then I’ll race [the Tour of Oman, Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Gent-Wevelgem and Amstel Gold,” he told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “The goal? Milan-San Remo since it’s the first one. On the other hand, Flanders, together with Paris-Roubaix, is the race of my dreams.”

Sagan has spread like wildfire since his debut in 2010, winning stages in nearly every stage race. This year, he won three stages and the green jersey in his debut at the Tour de France. The only thing that really seems to be missing in his palmarès is a one-day classic.

He showed promising signs in the classics this year, with a string of top-five finishes: fourth in San Remo, second in Gent Wevelgem, fifth in Flanders and third in Amstel Gold.

“Our goal is try to help the youngsters grow; we don’t want to smother them, though,” Cannondale coach Paolo Slongo told VeloNews earlier this year. “Next year the goals are San Remo, the classics in Belgium and the Tour.”

Slongo traveled to Sagan’s home in Žilina, Slovakia, at the end of 2009 to talk before the team’s new signing joined the pro ranks. Despite finding a cold, snowy and poor city in the former communist state, he saw potential.

“We had been looking at him and weighing him up,” Slongo said. “He was in Marchiolo, one of our satellite teams, and we saw that he had different attributes. He was a little bit more impressive than the others were. He had an important record. In 2008, he won the mountain bike title, placed second in the cyclo-cross worlds and fourth in the road worlds.”

Even with the classics on tap in 2013, some experts, including Slongo, are saying Sagan can go further — perhaps even win a grand tour.

“In the big classics, he can do anything, like in San Remo or in Belgium. If he loses weight, I’d like to see him try to be a grand-tour rider,” said Slongo. “It’s a bet, like Lance Armstrong, who began his career as a big rider, a little brash, who no one gave much faith. I’d like to see him do that in the coming years.”

Cannondale’s grand-tour rider, Vincenzo Nibali, who finished third overall in the Tour, has left to ride for Astana. Next year, Ivan Basso will lead the grand-tour teams with help from second-year pro Moreno Moser.

Sagan will keep his focus on the classics. He will skip Roubaix (it requires him to change his bike position too drastically) and the worlds (the course is too tough). Once he scores his first classic win and gets bored, he could shift to grand tours.

Cannondale general manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews: “In the future, he can also change goals and think about the yellow jersey. Win it? Why not?”