Peter Sagan should “not be discounted” as a contender at the UCI Road World Championships to be held on the mountainous Innsbruck course in Austria on September 30, said veteran cycling commentator Phil Liggett.
Sagan, not renowned for climbing, will be vying to win his fourth consecutive title on the 265km course, which will have almost 4 700 metres of ascent.
“If he [Sagan] is determined enough he can conquer any course,” Liggett said. “He may not be a climber, but he can climb.
“When you are racing on a circuit like in the world championships, you measure your effort a lot differently to in a stage race like the Tour de France.
“We should never discount Sagan and I am sure he will not discount himself either.”
The course, depicted as “pro-Vincenzo Nibali” because he is such a strong climber, would be “very hard”, added Liggett.
“If Nibali said it is hard, then it must be very hard,” Liggett said. “We talk of Nibali as a very good climber and stage racer. He knows the big difference between stage-race riding and one-day riding.
“It may well turn out to be the toughest [race] in the history of the world championships, but we have had some tough races in the past.”
Liggett recalled the 1980 world championships in Sallanches, France, which had almost 6 000 metres of climbing and was won by Bernard Hinault.
“That was a brute of a course with a major climb of around eight kilometres every lap [for 20 laps]. It was a war of attrition.”
“Valverde will start as my favourite to win. It sounds like a course that would suit him, and on his current form I would not put it past him to become the world champion.”