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Sagan credits instincts over strategy

RICHMOND, Virginia (VN) — New world champion Peter Sagan credited instincts for his masterful solo win Sunday afternoon in Richmond. Speaking less than an hour after his victory, he said strategy wasn’t an option for his three-rider team from Slovakia and that, even if it had been, that’s not how he races.

“With my team, we couldn’t have a strategy, because we were just three in the race,” Sagan said. “I saw the under-23 race and women’s race, and everyone was together until the finish. Journalists ask me, ‘How can you be in the final for the race?’ But it’s impossible to say. I want to be in the front and decide in the moment.

“When I attacked, I was behind Greg Van Avermaet. I said, ‘I’m going to try.’ It was a good decision. The big countries can do some strategy. I’m no good at strategy. I can just do what I did.”

Sagan also said a solo victory was probably his only option, as he said he was sure no other riders would work with him in the finale. Though he barely showed his face until the final 10 minutes of the six-hour, 15-minute race — preferring to let the heavyweight teams from Holland, Belgium, Germany, and Australia control things — once he did, it was in an all-or-nothing attack. He hit the gas on the cobbled 23rd Street climb and never looked back, attacking the small descent into the final climb up Governor Street and holding off the charging field on the long false flat to the line.

“From the last climb, it was still a long way to the finish — a descent, a little flat, the climb,” Sagan said. “After that, the last 800 meters was very tough. If you go alone from there to the finish, it’s far. Everyone’s going full gas to come to the finish for a sprint. But I said ‘I already tried, I have to go.’ Because if I look back or stop to pull and wait for the sprint, maybe I can get third or fifth.

“After the cobbled climb, if I had been with other riders, for sure they wouldn’t pull me. So it was crucial to be alone.”

A top-five finish would have been true to form for Sagan, who had a string of near wins in 2015, after racking up numerous victories in previous seasons.

“I was winning a lot, and it got boring for the people and the riders,” Sagan joked. “I’m always fighting. In the Tour de France and this year at some of the classics, I was at the front but not the best. But this is also my advantage. I can try to do a good sprint or a good climb. That’s my characteristic.”

That consistency earned him the overall at the Tour of California and another green jersey at the Tour de France, but the lack of wins also drew criticism from his Tinkoff-Saxo team owner Oleg Tinkov, who complained earlier this season about Sagan’s high salary.

But Sagan said it might be for the best that he didn’t win more: “If I trade all my second places for first, maybe no team can afford me.”