• Peter Sagan at SBS Tour Down Under promotional shoot for the Tour de France (Catherine Whelan)Source: Catherine Whelan
Peter Sagan has downplayed his chances of title triumph at the Tour Down Under that he will return to a vastly different rider than the unknown neo-pro who fronted seven years ago.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
15 Jan 2017 - 10:47 AM  UPDATED 15 Jan 2017 - 3:07 PM

Speaking at an official pre-race conference in Adelaide on Saturday, the two-time world champion pointed to former Tinkoff and now Bora-Hansgrohe teammate Jay MCarthy when asked of his chances of winning overall.

“To win? I don’t think so,” Sagan said. “There are some very difficult stages. I am open-minded, but we can figure that out day-by-day. It’s the first race of the season.”

The Australian McCarthy, 24, animated the tour last season, marking a stint in the leader’s jersey after a stage two victory in Stirling.

“We have Jay McCarthy here, and it’s a big race for him,” Sagan continued. “We want to help him for the GC. Jay McCarthy is better for that kind of finish.”

However, the Slovak sensation remains an enigma, a possible contender among pundits at the race, who can recall a rookie pro that still finished fourth on Willunga in 2010 despite having multiple stitches in his leg.

Sagan in recent years has modestly opened his season campaigns at the now defunct Tour de San Luis in South America. He has been in Australia since the beginning of the month, taking advantage of the fine weather to train ahead of the six-stage race he has come back to resplendent in rainbow bands and with five Tour de France green jerseys and seven Tour stage victories to his name.

“I saw the stage two finish, it’s not impossible but it’s pretty hard in this period of the season,” he said of Wednesday’s run to Paracombe, dubbed the new queen stage. “Willunga I remember from 2010. We will see. I don’t know what condition I have now.”

The 26-year-old said he has observed the same pre-season preparation despite finishing his season with a successful world title defence in Doha later than usual in October.

Sagan joined Bora-Hansgrohe after his previous Tinkoff stable folded last season through want of a sponsor.

“It’s a really good atmosphere, good people around and the riders are a very good group. I don’t feel like much has changed,” he said. 

Former race champions Simon Gerrans (Orica-Scott) and Tom-Jelte Slagter (Cannondale Drapac) as well as Richie Porte (BMC) also attended the press conference where the latter openly stated his aims to win a career first ochre jersey. Sergio Henao (Sky) also stands as a pre-race title favourite.

“Gerro’s name is on the stairs [outside the event hotel] four times, and I’d love to have my name on there. That is one of the motivating factors. I’d love to win this race,” Porte said.

Race director Mike Turtur touted the field for the tour, commencing Tuesday, is the strongest ever.

“There are 10 who can win the race, and to have Peter Sagan, it’s a great honour for us,” Turtur said.

“I love the world champion’s jersey and the history and tradition, it’s important for Australian cycling that he is here.”  

Sagan is one of four world champions that have competed at the tour.