Celebrations, superstitions, stunning successes: Here are Peter Sagan’s greatest hits
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When in his prime, Peter Sagan brought something special, both on and off the bike.
Whether he was crushing world championships or popping wheelies, Sagan’s career packs an oversized highlights reel that’s worth playing over and over again.
The 33-year-old confirmed this week that this season will be his last in the WorldTour.
In homage, VeloNews editors Andrew Hood, Sadhbh O’Shea, Will Tracy, and Jim Cotton choose their personal picks of the Slovak’s greatest hits.
Will Tracy: Clinching a nailbiter at the Tour of California
Throughout his career, Sagan hasn’t been a stranger to points jerseys in stage races, having won the sprint competition at the Tour a record seven times, the Giro, and the Tour of California another seven times, also a record. Those became almost routine.
But it was at that latter race, a favorite of the Slovakian, that he took an even rarer overall GC victory in 2015. Off the back of a sprint stage win, an impressive time trial performance, an absolute tank siphoning effort up the penultimate queen stage of Mount Baldy to stay in sight of leader Julian Alaphilippe’s time, and finally a bike throw on the final stage to pip out Tyler Farrar for third place and its accompanying four-second time bonus, Sagan won by the narrowest margin of victory in the race’s history, just three seconds.
It stands as arguably the most nail-biting edition of the Tour of California’s 14-year run. It’s all the more impressive given that the race served as something as a breaking-out party for the sport’s next big GC specialists like Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar.
Sadhbh O’Shea: Superstitions at the Saltzburgring
My most memorable Sagan moment happened well away from a bike race, at the Saltzburgring in Austria.
Sagan was doing a media day with his brother Juraj and teammate Marcus Burghardt for Bora-Hansgrohe’s car supplier and, somehow, I ended up being the only media representative there. Perhaps one of the most surreal moments of my career came when I was sat in the back seat of the car, being driven around the track by Sagan. He drives a car like he rides his bike, with no fear.
Later, during a trackside interview, Sagan sprinted away from me with no explanation after I had brought up the topic of the green jersey. It was only when he jumped up to tap a wooden awning on a small building, before coming back to continue the interview, that I realized he was superstitious.
Andrew Hood: Raising Hell at the ‘Hell of the North’
Sagan’s Paris-Roubaix victory in 2018 was incredible at many levels.
First, he was wearing the rainbow jersey while crushing the pavé to the “W,” something only the Merckx’s of the peloton have done.
Second, the way he rode away from the entire field to bridge up to the attackers revealed Sagan at the peak of his powers.
And third, it was amazing to see it all on the front-row.
I was tagging along with top shoot James Startt that day as we zigged and zagged across northern France, catching the action at Troisville, the exit from the Arenberg, and posting up just in time to see him attack over the under-rated Mons sectors. We caught one last glimpse at the entrance of the Carrefour, and drove like banshees toward the velodrome. A train held everyone up and we thought we were done for, but we blasted in just in time to sprint into the velodrome to catch the bell lap and Sagan’s winning sprint. Sublime.
Jim Cotton: Going full ‘Forrest’ at the 2012 Tour de France
Sagan’s “Forrest Gump” celebration at the 2012 Tour de France wasn’t the first of his wacky finish-line salutes, but it’s the one that sticks in my mind and somehow defines him as a rider in my imagination.
The Slovak bossed the Tour’s uphill sprint into Boulogne-sur-Mer with a stinger acceleration that an at-his-prime Edvald Boasson Hagen couldn’t match. Sagan had so much space over the Norwegian powerhouse he was able to uncork his finest victory dance in the final 100 meters in a moment of character-defining jokery.
That stage 3 victory was Sagan’s second of three in the 2012 Tour de France.
It came at a moment when the then-22-year-old seemed to have the world at his feet after he crushed the Swiss and California Tours, and in a period when I truly stamped my card as a fully-fledged, 24-7, bike geek.
I was living in the center of London when the city was overrun by the Olympics. Team Sky and British Cycling were on the rise. I was headfirst in the local race scene. And a pro who captured every inch of my imagination was in his pomp.
I still remember that summer – and Sagan’s exploits – vividly.