It is no secret, if you have read this blog in the past. I have been on the fan wagon of Peter Sagan, since the kid burst onto the scene. I have already written about his impact on cycling globally and the breath of fresh air he brings to the world of professional sports in general. He is met with throngs of adoring fans almost everywhere he goes. He extends himself to others and honors those around him who contribute to his status, whether a teammate, a director, or a child holding a giant picture of Sagan’s face. Yes, all of this makes him a great guy, but why is he the best in the world? We can all agree he is the best because he wears the rainbow jersey, but it goes beyond that.
There are some big names in the professional peloton: Gripel, Quintana, Froome, Kittel, Porte, Matthews, Yates (x2), Phinney, Aliphillippe, Dumoulin, Boonen, Degenkolb, Costa, Martin, Chavanel, and on and on. What is the separating factor or is there one? Just because a person is likable does not make him the best rider in the world. The way this writer perceives it is very simple. Peter Sagan races and hard. Classics? Racing. Grand Tours? Racing. While Froome is pedaling around at altitude, Sagan is racing. Many riders cherry pick the races that best suit them or avoid races altogether. But then again, one might point to Tirreno-Adriatico and say that Quintana beat Sagan hands down. Sagan is not a GC rider. He is an all-arounder. Of course, he will not hold the wheel of a 60 kg climber up an 8% grade for 15 kms. Sagan can obviously sprint , but like Stage 5 of Tirreno-Adriatico, he can climb better than the sprinters and sprint better than the climbers. His conservation of energy, bike handling skills and clean tactics are superb, watching him negotiate through the peloton.
Being the best in the world does NOT mean winning every time. Being the best in the world is having your presence felt in the peloton, whether you are a GC, a sprinter, or a domestique. Riders in the UCI know who is wearing the rainbow stripes. It is not just for show, like it has been in some years. This world champion is a serious threat; while at the same time, a likable guy. He could possess an ego the size of his home country, but he does not. He congratulates riders who are not even his teammates and posts Twitter messages to young riders about gummy bears. And here is where it is golden . . . Peter Sagan is 27 years old.