After watching this post-race video, there are things that are very telling about Peter Sagan. For many professional athletes who have reached stardom status, the pressure to perform is constant. Recently, Peter Sagan mentioned that even his hometown is basically off limits now, for lack of privacy. Sure, it is his job to ride a bicycle (fast) and he is paid handsomely for doing so, but the demand of giving and giving can and will take its toll.
In this first video, Peter’s body language is very telling. He would rather be anywhere else than standing in that spot: very brief eye contact, turning profile to the interviewer, having the question repeated and then repeating parts of the question back to the interviewer (by the way, that has nothing to do with understanding English [as if to say, do you understand just how stupid that question was?]), constantly shifting feet , and looking at the ground when answering a question. Speaking of how a question is answered, the tone of an answer and the length of the answer is also very revealing. For example, the very first answer . . . “Mmmmm, no” (affixed to a curt smile with nothing more) . . . the smile someone gives right before unleashing a right hook to someone’s temple.
Same race, different interview . . . the interviewer takes the lazy route and slings out a Journalism 101 question: “Peter, talk us through that sprint.” That smile again, as Sagan throws the question right back at the interviewer. After Peter elaborates a tiny bit and explains how much effort he put out, the interviewer asks if coming in second place is okay with him. Peter does a great job answering the provocational question.
Go back and watch other interviews from the past. That free-spirit smile is more prevalent. He appears to be more accepting of questions and welcoming in body language. In a recent interview with Peter’s mother, Milan Sagan, she stated that he needs time for himself. His friend and manager Matej Vysna added, “He can barely stand the outside pressure. Everywhere he goes, he’s followed by the media, by fans, hospitals wanting him to do charity events.” It has been written in other articles how much Peter Sagan enjoys solitude, sitting by a fire or fishing. Again, he chose this; it is obvious that he should have, given the extraordinary gifts he has been given. But after all, Peter is still just a man. He can only give so much of his time, his talents, and his energy. He cannot constantly be “on.” Even his longtime coach Peter Zanicky commented about the length of his prodigy’s career: “If something happens he doesn’t like, he’ll quit on the spot. You can’t take away Peter’s freedom. We still train together when he’s in Zilina, and then I see it as my job to keep him cheerful, to let him have some fun.”
Peter Sagan has been deemed the savior of cycling. He wears the world champion stripes and is expected to win every single time (just listen to the majority of asinine interview questions). Everyone needs room to breathe. If adjustments cannot be made by the press, the fans, and by Sagan himself, the cycling world will watch a great talent be consumed on the funeral pyre. Many have commented on the child-like spirit of this great bike rider. It has to be protected by Sagan and those closest to him.