Peter Sagan’s confirmation Monday that he will target Liège-Bastogne-Liège in 2019 sets the stage for a revival of cycling’s “doyenne.”
Race owner ASO has yet to officially reveal the revised parcours for the 105th edition of the Ardennes monument, but it’s already been confirmed the finish line will be in downtown Liège instead of atop the sharp climb to Ans.
That course change that will see the race conclude with a flat run-in to the finish line will not only dramatically alter the outcome of the race but also open the door for riders who typically avoided the hilly race across Belgium’s rugged Ardennes region.
Sagan, who’s joked he would need to lose 20 pounds if he ever wanted to try to win the Tour de France, confirmed Monday during a press conference he will race the climber-friendly Liège for the first time.
“The plan is to carry on until Liège-Bastogne-Liège,” Sagan said Monday. “I’ve never raced it before so it could be good for me to race it for future years. Maybe it’s for experience.”
Sagan’s confirmation is the first hint of how the new-look Liège course could see a major overhaul of what type of riders will try to win the Belgian monument.
Sagan, 28, has never raced Liège before in large part because the hilly parcours and the uphill finale to Ans were simply too difficult for his bulky build. Other big northern classics riders, such as Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara, never raced Liège-Bastogne-Liège during their respective careers because the course didn’t favor them.
Officials are expected to reveal the route details in the coming weeks, but it’s already been confirmed that last year’s edition won by Bob Jungels (Quick-Step) would be last at the Ans uphill finale.
Instead of finishing on the ridge overlooking the Meuse, the grueling one-day race will conclude on the flats in central Liège.
After moving the finish line from downtown Liège to Ans 27 years ago, the finale is coming back home in 2019. Hints suggest that the finish line could be on the Boulevard d’Avroy, where stages at the Tour de France have finished, right in the shadow of Liège’s main historical sites.
The course will still be packed with the short but steep climbs on its hilly out-and-back loop from Liège to Bastogne. It’s also still not confirmed if the famous La Redoute climb at 25km to go will be backed up by the fairly recent edition of La Roche aux Faucons at 15km to go, two of the course’s most emblematic climbs.
Even without knowing the final details, Sagan’s decision to at least have a run at Liège reveals the promise of the new course to attract a different style of rider.
“If it’s a flat finish into Liège, you could see riders like Sagan or [Michael] Matthews winning,” said Mitchelton-Scott sport director Matt White. “You could see the green jersey winner from the Tour de France winning now at Liège.”
Though considered one of the most difficult, prestigious, and demanding of the classics, the past several editions have seen fairly blocked race dynamics. Any early attacks were neutralized as the top protagonists knew that the winning move could be made with a well-timed surge under 500 meters to go before the final left-hander to Ans.
Organizers are hoping a flatter approach to the finish line would help transform Liège from a race of attrition and patience into one of attacks and aggression. Attackers might feel emboldened to move earlier and more often if they know they don’t have the final climb to Ans waiting to slow them down.
Ans isn’t completely out of the picture. The suburb will serve as the start of Flèche Wallone, the mid-week classic that finishes atop the Mur de Huy.
ASO is hoping these tweaks will help revive interest in the Ardennes classics, races that have been overshadowed of late by the booming interest in the cobbled classics.
It will be interesting to see if Michael Matthews (Sunweb), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Michael Valgren (Dimension Data), and others who can climb well and sprint out of a reduced group, will also take up the Liège challenge. Whether a rider like Sagan could drag himself over the climbs and still be a factor in a reduced bunch sprint to challenge for victory remains to be seen. Just having Sagan at the start line will help spice things up.
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan’s massive solo Paris-Roubaix victory in the world champion’s rainbow jersey came via a meeting in a kitchen and jokes over the team radio.
Sagan blasted free with around 55 kilometers to race in France’s cobbled classic and rode on to the smooth, cement-lined Roubaix velodrome with Swiss rider Silvan Dillier (Ag2r La Mondiale), the final rider of an early escape.
Sagan beat Dillier in a two-up sprint to add Paris-Roubaix to his 2016 Tour of Flanders victory and three world titles.
“It all began in the kitchen,” team Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews.
“The night before when we had the meeting for the race in the kitchen truck with the manager Ralph Denk, the race staff and the riders. You could since a good atmosphere and commitment after not the most successful classics season. At that moment, Team Quick-Step was beating everyone.”
Vila drove the team car the next morning to the first major cobbled sector. Twenty-nine sectors made up the course, for a total of 54.5km of cobble bashing in 257km monument.
The Spanish sport director that day would drive from sector to sector to provide gels, water bottles, and radio information to the riders when they approached and rode through the cobbled paths.
“The way Roubaix is, you don’t see the car for the whole race or 50km or more,” Vila said. “We have radio contact 100 meters before the sector, so we can give information and motivate them.”
Vila would motivate the Slovakian star, always using their common language of Italian. Sagan would shoot back, making a joke to release the building pressure.
Quick-Step Floors ruled the spring campaign with Niki Terpstra and Yves Lampaert, the former winning the Tour of Flanders just the week beforehand.
In Paris-Roubaix, the team launched Philippe Gilbert in the Arenberg Forest sector, and then Zdenek Stybar. After those moves faded, 2017 winner Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) attacked.
“Peter just uses the radio in a funny way,” Vila continued. “He uses it for jokes to take off the pressure and lower the tension in the team car or for his teammates. He’s particular that way.”
After Van Avermaet, Sagan counter-attacked to his eventual win. Blasting through the cobbled sectors, he caught and passed most of the escapees from the day’s early move. He worked with Jelle Wallays (Lotto-Soudal) and Dillier, dropping the former on the Cysoing à Bourghelles sector.
Vila’s attention turned to a relatively unknown Dillier. He navigated through the northern French countryside to get to the next sector and surfed the internet to read about Dillier.
“At that point, it was someone we didn’t know that wall and we needed to give as much info a possible. I saw that he’s been track racing, and you know that the race is coming to a sprint in the velodrome … We were concerned,” Vila said.
“It’s up to Peter though, we just told him to him pay attention: ‘This guy races on the track. Don’t underestimate him or get to motivated. For sure, he knows how to handle a track sprint.’”
Dillier said he felt he had a good position on the outside coming to the sprint, but that Sagan accelerated just when he was ready to do so.
“Peter always said Paris-Roubaix was a race he wanted to win,” Vila continued. “It was special. Not just the win, but how he won it. That’s as important as the win for Peter.
“It’s one of the big wins, it’s one of those magic days that he will never forget: the rainbow jersey, an early solo move, and a win like that.
“Peter was the diamond on the top of the crown, but it was the result of everyone’s work in the Bora-Hansgrohe team. We’d been honing our skills in the second year as a WorldTour team and Peter produced.”
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The pressure remains on Peter Sagan even without the rainbow jersey in 2019, says his Bora-Hansgrohe team.
Sagan will race without the rainbow jersey for the first time since 2015. He won the road world title that year and successfully defended it the next two seasons.
The team at a camp this week is planning his 2019 goals: the classics, the Tour de France’s green jersey, and the world championships in Yorkshire.
“Peter’s a marked man even without the rainbow jersey,” Bora coach and sport director Patxi Vila told VeloNews.
“The pressure is still the same. The jersey is always the reference in the race, but so is Peter. You can see the rainbow jersey better so it’s harder to race with it, but the main rivals know Peter, so it’s basically the same without it.”
The 28-year-old Slovakian could not contend on the climbers’ course in Innsbruck, Austria, this September and was unable to keep the rainbow jersey that he wore for the last three years. He laughed and said that he was “too fat.”
“Not that much changes for 2019 without the rainbow jersey because he’s already a big star of cycling,” Vila added. “It didn’t really change that much for him to have the rainbow jersey because he’s already marked.”
In that jersey, Sagan blasted clear from the final cobbled Paterberg climb to win the Tour of Flanders in 2016. This spring, he launched powerful, massive solo flyer to catch the final remaining escapee and take the Paris-Roubaix title in the velodrome.
This week, the German team meets in Spain for the first of its pre-2019 camps. Most of Sagan’s season is mapped, but details will be finalized. The first target is the classics: Milano-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders, and Paris-Roubaix.
He is training, and will race 2019, with the green and black team top mixed with his national Slovakian stripes. He starts in the Australia’s Santos Tour Down Under in January and continues to the Tour de San Juan in Argentina.
“I think in general it doesn’t change that much for Peter from season to season, the last two years, it’s basically been the same in all the aspects,” Vila said. “I think 2019 will be more less the same: fans waiting hours at the bus and the media attention around ever big race.
“At the camp, we are looking at the race calendar, setting it up properly, focusing on the races, the structure of the team in the races and the altitude camps in between.
“We have a similar team to last year and also the races will be mostly the same. It was a good year for us, so we are not going to make so many changes.”
Sagan joined the team in 2017 and recently extended his contract through 2021. In 2018, the top brass fine-tuned several aspects of the squad so he could win Paris-Roubaix and another green jersey at the Tour de France. In 2019, the team makes a small but potentially significant adjustment to Sagan’s classics group by bringing on board Oscar Gatto (from team Astana) and Jempy Drucker (BMC Racing).
“He’s a classics rider, so the goals are almost the same every year: Sanremo, Flanders, and Roubaix,” explained Vila. “Then after the Tour and stages and the green jersey.”
If there is one question I’ve been asked most often in my career, it’s probably: Are you a sprinter? Or maybe it’s: Why are you such a nutcase? But no, probably still: Are you a sprinter?
The answer is no. I am an all-rounder. I can sprint as well or as badly as I can climb or time trial; it’s just that sprinting comes a bit easier to me.
I’ve still got the jump I had when I first turned pro. When we do the various tests and studies that we have to do for the team, for the UCI, for the anti-doping guys, on a good day my watts-per-kilo ratio is still as good as it’s ever been, so I can still pump out a bit of power. However, I turned pro very young. I’m still only 28, so it could go at any moment. Cycling history is littered with sprinters who had one or two stellar seasons before they seemed to lose their edge. These days, it’s less common. Guys like Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish have been among the fastest year in, year out for many seasons. They say that Mario Cipollini was like that too: good every year, despite the passing of time. You can’t be quick for a year or two and retire with 57 — 57! — grand tour stage wins to your name, as Cipollini did. Maybe the decrease in doping has changed things? It could well be that. There aren’t as many mystifying performances as there used to be.
The thing to remember is that every sprint is different: One hundred riders with one hundred different stories is one thing, but the variables in the sprint are huge. Most big bunch sprints come in grand tours, so by their very nature, they vary, as they have a different route every year, every day. Even if a stage finishes in a town the race has visited before, there is no guarantee the line will be in the same place, or the route will cover the same corners or rises and falls. There’s also the unpredictable element of the weather: Rain is the most obvious hazard with corners offering the terrifying jolt of sketchy terrain and a slipping tire, but every sprint is also affected by wind strength and direction, something you might not be able to appreciate from the view on TV.
Crashes, or just fear of crashes, play a huge part in sprinting, of course, and you have to live by your wits a little bit. Being nervous about crashing often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, so it is key to stay relaxed. After all, you don’t need to be sprinting to fall off. Chris Froome once crashed into a race organizer seconds into a time trial, and we’ve all had an embarrassing tumble trying to clip out of the pedals at one time or another. It’ll just hurt more and look more spectacular if you do it 100 meters from the finish line at the Tour de France.
I don’t like sprinting from a lead-out train. It stresses me out, which is the last thing I need. Everybody is relying on you, and you have to fight for your position on the wheel in front miles before the finish. I don’t like fighting in the bunch. Life is too short. That’s just wasted energy when you’re going to need all of it later. I prefer to just ride and keep my eyes on what’s happening. That’s what I’ll have been doing all day anyway; it’s just getting a bit quicker by this stage. If you want to win a monument like Flanders or Roubaix, for example, the last 100 kilometers will be like the last 10 kilometers of a grand tour stage for me: Ride carefully, ride positively, keep your eyes open.
It’s a percentages game too. If I’m left to do my own thing, without anything going drastically wrong like a crash or a course diversion, I usually finish in the top five of a sprint, without needing to weigh up the individuals I’m sprinting against. I don’t want to sound immodest, but if I imagined I was somebody else watching the race, it’s realistic to expect the UCI world champion, who is known to be able to sprint pretty well, to be up there at the finish if he’s in the lead group. That’s just normal. With a lead-out train, you take much of your own fate out of your own hands. Sure, it’s nice for someone like Mark Cavendish when that Omega Pharma-Quick-Step train he used to have with Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw, and everybody drops him off with 200 meters to go, but there are so many things that can go wrong. You lose the wheel. Another team has a faster train, and your guys get burned off early. Your last guy misjudges the distance. The likely result is yes, in theory, you may have a better chance of winning, but you also have a greater chance of going nowhere. I prefer to do my own thing, and if somebody is faster than me, then he is faster than me. No problem. But I won’t be far behind him. And I like podiums, even when I’m not on the top step. I’d still rather be there than in the bus, arguing with the team about what went wrong.
I suppose, in an ideal world, rather than a lead-out, I’ll have a teammate nearby, just in case I can’t handle things on my own. Especially in the national team, that has worked really well, with either my brother Juraj or Michal Kolař close at hand in difficult moments. One man — one good man — can get on the front and drive a group along to dissuade attacks, can drag an escapee back or give up a wheel or even his bike if I am struck by some act of God at the sharp end of a race.
One of my mantras is that it’s good to have a plan, but plans don’t always work. There is an old story from the salesman’s manual: You’re a traveling salesman, and you walk in to see a customer who has bought the same thing off you many times in the past, and he says he doesn’t want any today. What do you do? You sell him something else. And that’s what I have to do, too. Sell my rivals something else.
Basically, I will try to ride as “normally” as possible until the last couple of kilometers. The most common shape for stages in grand tours now is that the first hour of the day is a crazy rush to get somebody in a break; then it calms down. With the better communication between the team cars, riders, and race organization, people have become very experienced at knowing what is needed to bring that long escape back. And you don’t want it caught too soon, as that would just encourage some other guys to go, and it gets messy again. You may feel it’s unlucky when a break gets recaptured within 2 kilometers of the line after 100 kilometers out in the wind, but it’s not really luck; it’s the masterplan working.
So, we’re all together with about 2,000 meters to go. Yes, somebody may break away, and you have to be alert to who it is, but if the bunch is traveling fast enough and there are sprinters’ teams and lead-out trains with a lot to lose, it is unlikely to succeed. Stay cool and play close attention. With 500 meters left, I will pick the wheel of the rider who I think is most likely to give me the best route to the line.
This is another moment where being a solo artiste is a big advantage. Let’s say that at the team meeting this morning, you agreed on the order of the lead-out, who was going to pull over when, and when you would be let loose at the line. Let’s say you’ve looked at the course in the road book that the race organizers give us all, and we settle on 300 meters as the ideal point to begin the sprint.
OK. Now I’m there, with 500 meters to go, the crowd is screaming, banging on the barriers with anything they can find, and the wind is in my ears as I hit 50 kilometers per hour. Suddenly, I realize there’s a headwind that we hadn’t planned for. No way do I want to hit the front at 300 meters, I’ll just get buffeted and then swamped. How can I get that message to everybody in front of me, a-reeling and a-rocking as we already are, holding each others’ wheels in the mayhem and the maelstrom of noise? No chance. That is one plan that can’t be changed.
My agent, Giovanni Lombardi, was one of the lead-out men for Mario Cipollini when the Lion King was in the rainbow jersey of world champion. He told me a story that in one of Super Mario’s earlier teams, they had both Cipo and Johan Museeuw, who was also really fast in those days. They claimed to have a system of whistles they could use to communicate. I find that hard to believe. There’s no way you could hear, no way to change plans. It might have worked if they had some sheep to round up, perhaps.
To be honest, when it’s a messy sprint with the different trains getting in each other’s way, breakaways being caught, lead-out men pulling over, that’s when it suits me best. Without anybody else to worry about, it’s easy for me to change plans.
Take Australia in 2018, for instance. It was my first race of the year, literally the first time the rainbow jersey had been seen since the podium in Norway. I had no condition and no real expectation. I was there to get fitter in the warm weather, to chill out away from the media frenzy in Europe, and to enjoy a bit of bike racing. The real training would begin in the Sierra Nevada in Spain, a month later. In that Australian race, if I’d had a train, I would have said, “Forget it, guys, not today; we’re not here to win this one.” Or if I’d not felt too bad and felt I owed the team a result, we could have organized, and I would have stressed about staying with them and not letting them bury themselves for me without good reason. With half a dozen hammers battering away for your benefit, you want to make sure that if you’re the nail, you’d better be sharp.
None of that, thank goodness. I just enjoyed the ride in warm weather, wearing shorts and short sleeves. All of a sudden, there were two kilometers left. I got focused, and the rainbow jersey had its first win of the year. Nice.
There are some basic rules to follow. If it’s a downhill finish, or fast because of a tailwind, I like to start farther back from the front than usual, so you can hit top speed before you get to the front. That creates a bit more momentum and makes you harder to catch. If there’s a headwind, then you want to stay covered up until the last possible moment. Preferably, get on the wheel of the sprinter with the most powerful train, as they are likely to drop him off earlier than he would like, and you can use his speed for an ultra-late charge as he begins to die away in the wind.
Uphill sprints need fewer tactics. It’s usually just a macho strength battle, and the strongest guy of the day will be the winner, which isn’t always the case in other finishes. If it gets too steep, I am likely to get out-punched by the real climbers … I’m thinking about “Purito” Rodriguez and Chris Froome when the Tour de France finished on the Mur de Huy, for example.
Apart from that, I love those messy sprints when everybody is all over the road, and I can duck and dive my way to the line. I’ve never ridden the Giro d’Italia, and maybe I will one day, but I have a feeling I’d like the finishes there. They always seem to have a 90-degree bend 50 meters from the line or something crazy like that, finishes so narrow you could reach out and touch both barriers. Plus, they tend to go through the finish line and then do a lap of the town before the end of the stage, so you can have a good look at it in advance. One day, maybe.
So, that’s all there is to it. You have all my secrets. Not really secrets, just common sense, but it’s all I’ve got to give you. It’s up to you now!
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is not aiming to shed weight and win the Tour de France in the coming years.
Sagan, who just relinquished his rainbow jersey after a three-year run as world champion, plans to keep following the path that has led to success so far.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with me,” he told The Telegraph when asked if he would lose weight to challenge the top riders like Sky’s Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas in the Tour de France.
“If I lose the weight, am I still going to be strong? I might not be the man I am. Maybe I will lose what nature made me.
“My feeling is: why change something that is working?”
Classics and sprints are what work for Sagan, who currently weighs around 165 pounds. He won his world titles on lumpy courses that allowed him to sprint away from a reduced field. From Richmond in 2015 until Innsbruck last month, he reigned.
He spoke about those three years in a recent book, “My World,” which debuted last week in London. Ahead of the event, Sagan said he was “too fat” to contend for a fourth world title in Innsbruck.
Sagan rocketed to the top of cycling with his WorldTour debut in 2010. Besides three world titles, he counts wins in the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Ghent-Wevelgem, and 11 stages and six points competition titles in the Tour.
Some insiders close to Sagan suggested that he could lose weight and one day transition from classics cyclist to a Tour de France general classification rider. Similar transitions were made by Bradley Wiggins and Thomas.
“My personal bet is that — with the proper maturation, weight loss — is that he’ll become a grand tour rider,” Sagan’s former trainer Paolo Slongo said after his first Tour stage win in 2012.
“Like [Lance] Armstrong, who began his career as a bigger rider, a little brash, who no one gave much faith. He has no limits in the one-day races and I’m betting on the grand tours as well.”
“In the future, he can aim for stage races,” his former manager at Team Liquigas, Roberto Amadio, said in 2014. “He goes strongly in time trials and on climbs. With training, he can win a Tirreno-Adriatico or Paris-Nice, start from there and move ahead.”
Sagan does not want to change what is working. Instead, he could aim for a record number of Flanders or Roubaix titles, or perhaps win Amstel Gold or Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
“Everyone thinks I can [switch to being a Tour contender], but I think it is not for me,” he said. “It’s already hard to win, even for the climbers. They have to make a lot of sacrifices with food, training.
“I am happy to stay this way. I don’t want to be making even more sacrifices. I don’t see myself to be that serious.”
Sagan’s 2018 season has reached an end. He is due to kick off his 2019 season at Australia’s Santos Tour Down Under in January.
Hi Peter. Would you like to do more MTB races? And is a MTB career maybe a wish after you retire from road cycling? It looks to me that MTB racing is making you more happy than road cycling.
I think when I retire from the road I’ll enjoy a lot of downhill mountain biking, for sure. I don’t know if I’ll even go on a road bike in my retirement – maybe only for coffee with friends or something! I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, though.
It strikes me that your philosophy to bike racing is maybe more to win “with flair” rather than “at all costs”. Is that fair?
My philosophy? I don’t really know because I don’t really see myself on the bike, I just ride. You see only your angle, and I don’t look back at my races: that is just losing time! I think if you only had a couple of races in the season, you could do this, you could analyse your style or mistakes, but with how it is with so many races, you just have to keep going and keep improving.
You’ve said you often got bored in races. What would you do to make road racing more exciting?
Well it depends on the race, you know. For sure if it’s only 1 or 2 hours it will be faster, with everybody going full gas from the start to the end, but with a five or six hour race there are bound to be moments when we are going slow.
Do you like to play any other sports? Are you good at them?
Just for fun I do some fighting sports, play some soccer, hockey a little – I was in dance school, and we’ve done some gymnastics in training and a fair bit of swimming. I have done a lot of cross-skiing and hiking in the mountains back home.
My earliest cycling memory is Djamolidine Abdoujaparov crashing into the barriers on the final stage of the 1991 Tour. What’s your earliest cycling memory – and did it influence your decision to become a cyclist? Mine certainly did, which is why we’ve never met in the peloton. Honest, that’s the reason.
I think my earliest memory was my first time on the startline in a mountain bike race when I was 8. I borrowed my friend’s bike and won the climb time trial but had some other problems so didn’t make the top three in the GC.
What would you being doing if you hadn’t become a cyclist?
I don’t know! I really don’t. I never thought about what I was going to do in life, even when I was young, and that only changed when I signed my first contract. When I was 19 I was just riding, but after that, when you’re 21, 22, 23, you have to make a living – I thought, if I can earn money from cycling, that’s good!
Do you have a favourite stage from the Grand Tours?
No – the stages are always changing, so I don’t really have a favourite, but I do enjoy some of the races in Australia and the US, because we are in a more relaxed moment of the season. You can enjoy the people, the atmosphere etc more after the higher pressure of some of the other races.
Well I try always to do my best but maybe another World, maybe an Olympic. But I don’t want to put events in order of priority – during the season there are a lot of important races, and if you can achieve something for the team too, then that is great.
Next year? Well first I want to rest … I’ll think about next season next season! The plan now is to do a few events, there’s a gran fondo in the US in November, and if I have time maybe some holiday, perhaps 7/8 days. But that’s cycling – too much time off and it’s hard to get in shape again.
What is left for you to achieve? Will you be competing at Tokyo 2020?
A lot of things! A lot of races – maybe I can challenge again in Flanders, Roubaix – I have never won Milan-San Remo though twice I was very close but was just missing something.
Maybe another World Championship? I have done a lot of things, but I motivate myself now by keeping myself calm and enjoying it: that is my goal I think. Don’t be stressed about results but enjoy the cycling. That is, I think more important.
Have you always been fast on a bike? And what is most important to help you win – Tactics, technique, strength, or desire?
Actually when I was young, in junior races, I was better in the climb than at sprinting. After I grew up I lost some kilos … and now, I’m fast. I can keep going in some climbs, but I’m at home in the bunch sprints.
Peter Sagan will be joining us on Thursday afternoon to answer your questions. You could ask about his three consecutive World Championship victories, the hairdressing salon he co-owns with his sister, or the day he caused a minor scandal in the sport by not shaving his legs.
Sagan is not just “a true legend and one of the all-time greats” (Bradley Wiggins’ words) but he’s also a bit of a character. He turned up to his wedding in a Trabant car while wearing a gold-trimmed tunic; he decided to dress up as John Travolta’s character from Grease and sing You’re the One That I Want with his wife for an advert; and he had a bike made for the pope.
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — After three years, the world champion’s jersey finally started to weigh on Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), who said he is “too fat” to win against climbers like Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) over a tough course like the one raced Sunday in Innsbruck for the 2018 world road championships.
The Slovak cyclist finished worlds early on Sunday in Austria — a DNF after three years finishing first. He still celebrated on the podium, however. He made a surprise visit and presented Spain’s Valverde his gold medal for winning.
“Why didn’t I win? I’m too fat!” Sagan told VeloNews Wednesday, joking as he rushed from one appointment to another after the world championships.
He explained Tuesday at the Sportful release that being world champion was becoming a burden. The Italian company released a new jersey, with rainbow bands on only the arms — a reminder of his three-year reign — and with the Slovakian colors across the chest because he still remains national champion.
“I’m 80 kilos, what can I do on a course like that?” Sagan said. Valverde, in comparison, is said to weigh 61 kilograms.
“It was a very difficult day for me, but we have to be proud of this new world champion who fought for many years before winning the rainbow jersey.
“In 2003, when Valverde won the silver at Hamilton, I was already racing but I was not watching the pros, I was in my world.”
Sagan surprised fans when he awarded Valverde and shook the hands of Frenchman Romain Bardet, silver, and Canadian Michael Woods, bronze.
“I rewarded him because at least so I had the chance to touch the new world championship jersey, which for three years has been with me and was starting to be a burden,” he added.
“The idea came to me because in boxing the contenders pass the belt. I asked the UCI if it was possible. I was proud to pass it over to Alejandro and he was happy about it, I told him to enjoy the jersey and take it around the world.”
Sportful presented Sagan’s line with a series of images, including those from his 2018 Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Roubaix wins.
“I made Elia Viviani cry? It was not me, he started crying. This Gent-Wevelgem win gave me morale after a difficult period,” Sagan said. “My first victory here was in the Liquigas jersey.
“Arriving [to win Paris-Roubaix] in the world champion’s jersey is special, even if I would not change a world championship for a classic. There are many champions who have never won that jersey, for example, Fabian Cancellara. Valverde had to work hard to do it.”
Valverde became the second oldest cyclist at 38 to win the road race world title. Sagan, 28, does not want to race that late into life.
“I hope not, I do not see myself going as strongly as him. I already feel tired.”
Peter Sagan will ride on with Bora-Hansgrohe through the 2021 season, he and the team announced Friday at a press conference.
The three-time world road champion is prepping for his bid for a fourth title this weekend in Innsbruck, Austria.
Sagan is closing out his second year with the German-based WorldTour outfit, which he joined at the start of 2017 after a two-year stint with the Tinkoff organization. During his time with Bora-Hansgrohe, Sagan has racked up two rainbow jerseys, a Tour de France green jersey, and a monument victory at Paris-Roubaix to go with a sizable collection of other WorldTour wins.
Bora-Hansgrohe also announced contract extensions for several other riders on Friday, extensions that will keep much of the team’s classics core in place around team leader Sagan for the next three years. Erik Baška, Maciej Bodnar, Daniel Oss, Marcus Burghardt, and Peter Sagan’s brother Juraj Sagan have all joined him in re-upping through the end of 2021.
“It was a straightforward decision for me to take, even if I still have one more season to go under my current contract,” Sagan said. “I’ve enjoyed two remarkable years with this team and I wouldn’t want to move from somewhere that has given me so much trust, support and belief in me, even in the most difficult moments.”
Bora-Hansgrohe manager Ralph Denk praised Sagan’s status as a “brand ambassador who fascinates even those outside our sport.”
“Thanks to my main sponsors BORA and hansgrohe, both of which already extended their contracts early this season, we are in the fortunate position of being able to plan on a long-term scale,” he said. “Peter is the star of cycling.”
FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Three-time world champion Peter Sagan could soon renew his contract with Bora-Hansgrohe.
Sagan’s contract runs through 2019, but the German WorldTour team is working to secure him beyond next season given his abilities and marketing capabilities.
“We and our sponsors, of course, would like to keep Peter,” team boss Ralph Denk told the Belga news agency. “We are currently in discussion, with no deadline in sight. We still have time.”
Deals are usually signed midway through the season. Agents will advertise their riders before the Tour de France or during, and teams will shop.
Given Sagan’s status – this year winning Paris-Roubaix and a sixth Tour de France green jersey – the team does not want to wait too long. Sagan has everything he needs at Bora-Hansgrohe, but the more time passes, the more rival offers could arrive and the more questions could circulate.
Denk said, “He’s the champion with the greatest charisma in cycling.”
Team Sky, similarly not wanting to let Chris Froome slip away, re-signed him in 2017 well before his contract expired at the end of 2018.
Keeping Sagan will not come cheap for Bora-Hansgrohe. Sagan continues to offer plenty of return on the road and off it in terms of marketing potential for the two German brands Bora and Hansgrohe, and Specialized bicycles.
Froome earns around £4 ($5.29) million. This year’s Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas signed a deal for around £3.5 ($4.63) million. Sagan is one of the top paid cyclists, too; when the 28-year-old Slovakian signed for Bora-Hansgrohe ahead of the 2017 season, insiders estimated his contract at €4 ($4.7) million.
“But money is not decisive,” Denk said. “For Peter too, money is not in the first consideration.”
Sagan and the team just pushed through the Vuelta a España, where Sagan tried to win another time in the rainbow jersey before next weekend’s world championship road race in Innsbruck, Austria. He was unsuccessful. He placed second four times, including in the final Madrid stage behind Elia Vivani (Quick-Step Floors).
Sagan will hope the Vuelta has left him ready to contend for a fourth world title. However, the Innsbruck course appears too much for Sagan with its 5,000 meters of climbing.
“It is very hard for me,” Sagan said. “I go there more to be a presence and to wear the Slovakian jersey. I owe it to my country. Let’s see what happens, but I do not go there with hope.”
“He’s certainly at a disadvantage on the mountainous course with his body weight of almost 80 kilograms,” Denk added.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) didn’t get the final victory in the rainbow jersey he was hoping for.
The three-time world champion raced for what’s likely the last time in the stripes during Sunday’s finale at the Vuelta a España — at least this time around. Sagan was second behind Elia Viviani (Quick-Step Floors) and did not win during the three-week Vuelta despite some close calls.
“I tried my best but it wasn’t enough to win the stage,” Sagan said Sunday. “Congratulations to Elia for his victory.”
Sagan returned to the Vuelta for the first time since 2015, with the hopes of winning another stage. Banged up and battered from his high-speed crash near the end of the Tour de France, Sagan admitted he wasn’t at his best at the start of the race.
Sagan hoped to ride into condition as well as win a stage. Initially it was expected that Sagan would leave the Vuelta after stage 12, but he stayed in the race all the way to Madrid with hopes of claiming what likely would be his last to win in the world champion stripes.
Sagan came close during the Vuelta, finishing second or third six times. His nemesis was Italian sprinter Viviani, a close friend and rival in the sprints. The Italian won three sprints during the Vuelta.
The Vuelta puts an end to Sagan’s tremendous three-year run in the world champion’s jersey. Sagan’s last victory was stage 13 during the Tour de France on July 20. One more win simply wasn’t in the cards.
“We finish this edition of the Vuelta having achieved less than what we had hoped for,” said general manager Ralph Denk. “We came to Spain aiming at a top-10 position in the GC and at least a stage win. We came close to those goals but we didn’t reach them, so we can’t be really happy.”
Sagan will next race at the world championships in Innsbruck. Though he is the defending champion, he won’t wear the stripes during the road race per tradition.
Sagan isn’t considered a favorite for the climb-heavy worlds course and has downplayed his chances, but he will line up anyway in part to honor the jersey.
So, will Innsbruck finally see the end to Sagan’s three-year reign as world champion? Dutch rider Bauke Mollema said don’t be too sure.
“You never know! I would not be surprised if he is still there in the final. The course looks super-hard so maybe everyone will wait until the final lap,” Mollema said. “That final climb is very steep so it’s not the perfect course for him, but you never know with Peter Sagan.”