Peter Sagan: ‘Being the Pope is much harder than being a cyclist’

His dramatic victory in the Paris-Roubaix has elevated the Slovakian to the pinnacle of his sport but his humble roots and carefree attitude seem certain to keep cycling’s new hero grounded

“I was thoroughly fucked but I tried to enjoy it afterwards,” Peter Sagan says with a grin as he explains how he felt after winning the Paris-Roubaix classic this month. “When I was younger, it was always my dream to win Paris-Roubaix. I didn’t think about the World Championships and [the Tour of] Flanders.”

Sagan is the most popular rider in cycling today and, with the murky uncertainty surrounding Chris Froome and Team Sky, his victory felt like a shaft of light which revealed panache and grit. They call Paris-Roubaix the ‘Hell of the North’, because its 29 cobbled sections have a bone-juddering impact on even the toughest and most brilliant riders. It is also the glittering peak among the five monuments which are cycling’s oldest and most prestigious one-day races.

Twice I didn’t finish Roubaix and in those races I did finish I was in much worse condition than this year

If you ask me how could I help cycling I would say by being myself. I want to make people enjoy life – because so many people have a hard time

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