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                       Why fight legends of the past, when you can create myths yourself?

Photo: A.S.O.




19.11.2013 @ 19:02 Posted by Patrick Lorien


2013 UCI World Tour - The ten best pro-cyclists in the world


What follows is the seventh, in ten portraits, covering the UCI’s top ten World Tour riders, their 2013 season, and their future prospects. This article will be about Peter Sagan, the world’s fourth best professional cyclist.


Additional articles in the series: Richie Porte #10, Rui Costa #9, Nairo Quintana #8, Fabian Cancellara #7, Daniel Martin #6Vincenzo Nibali #5, Alejandro Valverde #3, Chris Froome #2 & Joaquim Rodríguez #1.


Peter Sagan, Cannondale – #4 / 491 points – 2013


He is the only rider whose nickname (The Terminator) denotes a human-looking cyborg, a programmable assassin, and a lethal action figure. In fact the name is derived from the many mountain bikes Sagan has ridden to smitherness.


Twenty-three years old Peter “The Terminator” Sagan is the best young rider in the peloton, and almost more incredible is that it is a title he has been eligible too, ever since 2010.


Please consider these quotes:


“I see myself in Sagan.” Eddy Merckx


“He’s a cold killer.” Robbie McEwen


“Basically it’s Sagan versus the rest.” Matt White


“I think that’s just the beginning, what he’s doing here.” Fabian Cancellara


“Peter Sagan is clearly special, so much that the history books need to be consulted.” The Guardian


“He’s like watching Messi playing football.” Dave Brailsford


 “Sagan is Jedi.” David Millar


Not bad, huh?


Sagan started riding early, and at the age of nine joined Cyklistický spolok Žilina – a small cycling team from his hometown. From the beginning Sagan separated himself from the other kids, by insisting on racing in tennis shoes and t-shirt, and by choosing to drink only water (as opposed to the myriad of energy-related drinks that most cyclists prefers).


Throughout his junior period he competed in a variety of races; winning most on both mountain bikes and road bikes.


As opposed to quite a few riders he has also got a very colorful character, and again and again manages to turn the spotlight towards himself and cycling.  Who does not remember the renowned butt-pinch, the lesser known attempted butt-slap (from the earlier 2013 E3 Harelbeke), or this t-shirt (mature audience only).


Then there is the running man, the chicken, the Hulk, the juggler, and finally the hand.


He may be young and foolish, but fortunately for himself, he has also got the talent to back up just about anything he chooses to do.


Three short facts:


Won the Slovak cup riding his sister’s supermarket bike


Is one of the best technical riders around. Exhibit A, B, C & D


With ten victories he is the most victorious rider at the Tour of California (in just three participations)


Dukla Trencín Mérida


In 2009 Sagan signed with Dukla Trencín Mérida, and the Continental Pro Slovak team constituted his first professional team. In the same year he tried out for Quick Step, but failed to secure a contract. He was so frustrated that he decided to quit cycling, and only intense pressure from his family made him continue. Luckily, because he was soon picked up by Liquigas.


Liquigas / Cannondale


The doctors and managers at Liquigas were astonished with the results of Sagan’s medical tests, and stated that they had never seen better numbers from a nineteen-year-old.


He entered his first Pro Tour race – The Tour Down Under – in January 2010, and from the very beginning displayed his class against the world’s best.


In the second stage he collected seventeen stiches from a crash, and his whole participation in the race appeared doubtful. Nonetheless, he managed to participate in the finish the day after, and ended with a very respectful fourth place just after Cadel Evans, Manuel Cardoso and Alejandro Valverde.


To days later Sagan proved that his earlier result was not a fluke, and escaped on the last climb together with superstars Evans, Valverde and Sanchez. In the end Sagan placed fifth, but had still left his mark on the queen stage of the race, and perhaps more importantly on the Tour Down Under itself.


After the race he was given credit by multiple Tour de France winner Armstrong:


"I tell you," said Armstrong afterwards, "this young Slovenian is showing a lot of talent."  While Armstrong was mistaken about Sagan's nationality he was certainly not wrong on the ladder.


Team director sportif Stefano Zanatta explained, "He is very humble and is always respectful. As he should be, he is a first-year professional, only 20 years old, far from his home in Žilina, Slovakia, and racing in a ProTour-level team alongside Ivan Basso and Daniele Bennati.”


"Peter can go well in the one-day races, he's explosive and has a build like Cunego or Oscar Freire," Zanatta added. "For the long climbs, he has to improve a lot, but it is possible over the next years."


Sagan would quickly surpass the likes of Basso and Benatti in fame, and would also prove that he could (occasionally) keep up with the best in the high mountains.


He demonstrated in the Paris-Nice ITT prologue that he also mastered this discipline, and finished fifth in the company of specialist Lars Boom, Jens Voigt, Levi Leipheimer and Alberto Contador. He subsequently placed second in the second stage, won the third stage’s mountaintop finish – and collected the yellow overall jersey, won the fifth stage, and finally placed third during the penultimate sixth stage. Bam!


With the results he added considerable embarrassment to Liquigas’ stage racing riches, by doing phenomenally better than designated leader Kreuziger, star Basso, prodigy Nibali and experienced Pellizotti.


A new star had been born; likely the most versatile star that cycling has witnessed since Eddy Merckx.


“I have never seen a rider like him,” said Ivan Basso. “I don’t think anyone has. He is the first-of-a-kind rider. You can expect everything because he can win what he wants. Anything. If he wins the Tour de France someday, it will not be a surprise to me. Watch out.”


Sagan proceeded with his first season as Pro Tour rider to win a stage in the Tour de Romandie and two stages in the Tour of California. Along the way he would pick up numerous other podium places, and an array of top ten overalls. His versatility was especially highlighted by his seventh place in the GP Ouest France-Plouay and his second place in the GP de Montréal, and the classics results mirrored his future prowess in this discipline.


In 2011 Sagan continued his trajectory towards cycling’s hall of fame, still only twenty years old. His first big win came during the Giro di Sardegna, and he also ended up collecting the overall title; just three seconds ahead of Serpa.


“Once again the team was fantastic: Nibali and Capecchi took me up to the finish, and prevented Serpa from gaining those few seconds he needed to pass me,” Sagan stated after the ultimate stage, adding that “the Giro di Sardegna has proved to be excellent training in view of my main goal of the season: producing an immense performance at the Paris-Nice.”


Despite his ambitions the Paris-Nice stars would not align for Sagan, and he ended the stage race with three disappointing top ten places, and a DNF during the last stage. His bad luck would continue, and the initial classics’ season would be disastrous (although considering his age and inexperience, not really) with a DNF at the Ronde van Vlaanderen, by placing eighty-sixth during the Paris-Roubaix, and with a ninety-eighth place during the Amstel Gold Race.


Fortunately the rest of the season would be his hitherto best, and in the Tour of California and during the Tour de Suisse Sagan accomplished numerous victories and podiums. Sagan proved faster than the fastest, and at times better than the best climbers; the ladder underlined by his performance in the third stage of the Tour de Suisse, where he decimated the resistance, and left cycling’s best biting the dust – the mountainous opposition included Cunego, Fuglsang, Ten Dam, Caruso, Van Garderen, the Schlecks, Mollema, Soler, and Leipheimer.


Subsequently he won the Tour de Pologne (in addition to several of its stages) and demonstrated an uncanny talent for medium-length stage races, and an experience and matureness that exceeded his young age.


Shortly after Sagan targeted the Vuelta a España as his first Grand Tour appearance, and enjoyed extraordinary success with three wins, and two second places. He verified his speed, by being faster than Benatti, Petacchi, Kittel and Degenkold and his punchiness by beating Chavanel, Rodriguqez and Freire; not bad by a youngster from Slovakia.


"I never expected to have so successful a race at the start,” said Sagan. “The Vuelta for me was a kind of gamble, indeed to understand how I could perform over three weeks and to see how I could cope with the really difficult climbs. Now we’ve finished in Madrid [where he won], I can say that I’m more than satisfied. You betcha!


2012 would be yet another success for Peter Sagan.


Perhaps most impressive was his results in the classics; races that normally suit the older and more experienced riders. Here Sagan would place fourth in the Milano-Sanremo, second in the Gent-Wevelgem, fifth in the Ronde van Vlaanderen, and third in the Amstel Gold Race.


These results marked a turning point in Sagan’s career, and from here on he would (also) enter most classics as a dark horse or straight out favorite.


Sagan proceeded to casually collect more victories in a single season in the Tour of California and the Tour de Suisse than any rider before him, and the results made him a top contender for Cavendish’s green Tour jersey. The results also enabled a bet between Sagan and Liquigas presiden Paolo Zani: If Sagan was able to win two stages and collect the green points jersey, Zani would have to buy him a Porsche car.


And the young Slovak would do more than Zani asked. Net Tour results: Three stage victories, three second places, five top ten places, and as icing on the cake; the green jersey.


"I achieved results in this Tour that went way beyond what I expected. I wanted a stage win and I got three, I wanted the green jersey and I won it. I definitely couldn’t have asked for more," Sagan said.


"Sagan is a phenomenon. He took a convincing victory in the points standings and also three stage wins. For me, he has also shown that in the future, he could ride for the overall classification," said race director Christian Prudhomme.


And Sagan? He got a Porsche…


Peter Sagan’s 2013 season, and the reason as to why he is currently considered #4 in the world


Sagan’s 2013 season has been nothing short of stellar, and he has again and again demonstrated that he is well on his way to be the most remarkable cyclist in the last thirty to forty years.


He has collected innumerable victories at top stage races Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour of California, Tour de Suisse, USA Pro Challenge, and Tour of Alberta; lots of smaller race and stage victories and then a stage win and green jersey at the Tour de France.


But perhaps his most important results have been in the classics. First a second place at the Strade Bianche, then another two second-places at Milano-Sanremo and E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, overall at Gent-Wevelgem, second at Ronde van Vlaanderen, first at Brabantse Pijl and twelfth at Flèche Wallonne. Then tenth at the GP de Québec, first at GP de Montréal, and finally sixth at the Worlds Championships.


What these results can be deduced to, is the fact that Sagan is looking like he may end up with some of the best results in cycling ever. And in the modern era too.


This year alone he has had astonishing twenty-one victories, ten second places and five third places. That is a podium in 36 of the 85 races in which he participated, or in percentages; a podium in more than 40% of every race. Pretty awesome!


2014 and the future


It is almost frightening to imagine what would happen if Peter Sagan sticks to his current success curve. Each year, since he turned pro, he has gained substantially better results. A monument next year seems certain. As does another green Tour jersey. But then?


Perhaps participation in more than one Grand Tour, more point jerseys, and more GT stage wins? Multiple prologue victories? Perhaps overall, at one of the big medium-sized stage races, such as the Tirreno-Adriatico, the Tour of California or the Tour de Suisse?


Hopefully, we will also at some point see him challenge for overall in a Grand Tour.


With Peter Sagan only the sky is perhaps truly the limit.


"I do not want to be the second Eddy Merckx. I want to be the first Peter Sagan," he has stated to the press, on the comparisons between him and the Cannibal.


But why fight legends of the past, when you can create myths yourself?




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