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Could Peter Sagan shift from one-day classics to winning the Tour de France?

GENT, Belgium (VN) — In two or three years, Cannondale’s Peter Sagan could graduate from winning one-day classics to the biggest stage race of them all, his boss says.

“Of course, it’s up to him and how much desire he has to change focus to the Tour de France,” team manager Roberto Amadio told VeloNews. “It’s a bit like Brad Wiggins, but in reverse!”

In 2010, Amadio gave Sagan a chance to turn professional for his then-Liquigas team. In the ensuing four years, Sagan has dominated the points classifications in stage races — including two green jerseys at the Tour — and the one-day races.

The 24-year-old Slovak has yet to claim a monument, but has come close, with second places in Milano-Sanremo and Ronde van Vlaanderen. He has also won other one-day WorldTour races, like Gent-Wevelgem last year and E3 Harelbeke on Friday.

After a few years of dominating the one-day events, and assuming he picks up some monuments along the way, Amadio said that Sagan could shift his specialty to stage racing.

In Tirreno-Adriatico last year, he won the tough stage 6 to Porto Sant’Elpidio against seasoned stage racers like Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquim Rodriguez, Amadio said. He did it again in stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse, to Meiringen.

“In the future, he can aim for stage races,” Amadio said. “He goes strongly in time trials and on climbs. With training, he can win a Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice, start from there and move ahead.”

Paolo Slongo, who worked with Sagan from 2010 to 2013, said the same thing after Sagan debuted in the 2012 Tour.

“My personal bet is that, with the proper maturation, weight loss, he’ll become a grand-tour rider,” Slongo told Cycling Weekly. “Like [Lance] Armstrong, who began his career as a bigger rider, a little brash, who no one gave much faith. He has no limits in the one-day races and I’m betting on the grand tours as well.”

Amadio agreed then, and he does now. But he told VeloNews that while Sagan could shift his focus from green to yellow, it would take time and desire.

“He can aim for the Tour de France, for sure, but we have to start from the bottom like we did years ago when he started in the team,” Amadio said. “We are not going to aim for the Tour de France first. It’d be Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice and then the Tour de France.”

This year, Sagan has the classics on his mind. On Sunday, he will try to defend his Gent-Wevelgem title in Belgium. The big cobbled monuments, Ronde van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix, come in the next two weeks.

For now at least, the yellow jersey will have to wait.