‘Cycling’s saviour’: Why Sagan’s ‘three-Pete’ was so significant
In-depth: Peter Sagan is a three-time world champion, but what does it mean for the Slovakian superstar and the sport of cycling, and is there more to come?
Sagan is the first man to win three in a row, as well as being the youngest to achieve a hat-trick, and his photo-finish victory in Bergen was not just an achievement for the ages, but a reminder of why Sagan is such an important figure in cycling.
But after winning the rainbow jersey yet again, will an imminent change in the Slovakian’s personal circumstances dull his famously competitive instincts?
We dig into Sagan’s moment of glory…
HOW DID HE DO IT?
After victories in Richmond, USA, in 2015 and Doha, Qatar, last year, Sagan made it a trio of triumphs in the UCI Worlds on the streets of Bergen, Norway. Indeed, he snatched victory away from home hero Alexander Kristoff in the narrowest of sprint finishes.
Sagan wasn’t a prominent figure for much of the race, lurking at the back of the peloton for much of the 267.5km course round the picturesque coastal landscape. It was Julian Alaphilippe (France) and Gianni Moscon (Italy) who went clear on the final ascent of Salmon Hill but the pair were caught inside the final 2km.
Kristoff went for glory inside the final 1km but with 50m to go, Sagan stormed through and took the title in dramatic circumstances with a perfectly timed bike throw. He joins a select group of three-time winners:
|Alfredo Binda||3||0||1||1927, 1930, 1932|
|Rik van Steenbergen||3||0||1||1949, 1956, 1957|
|Oscar Feire||3||0||1||1999, 2001, 2004|
|Eddy Merckx||3||0||0||1967, 1971, 1974|
|Peter Sagan||3||0||0||2015, 2016, 2017|
WHAT WAS THE REACTION?
Slovakia's Peter Sagan (C) is escorted after winning the men elite road raceGetty Images
Not only that, it cemented his status as cycling’s most popular character, entertainer and competitor. As former Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins put it on Twitter…
" Cycling attracts a lot of negative headlines. But it always has Peter Sagan. The newly-elected president of the UCI, David Lappartient, had better hope the Slovakian – who made history by winning a third straight world road race title in Norway – never gets caught up in any scandal because he is a shining light for cycling; a star with seemingly endless ability and box office appeal. As Usain Bolt was for athletics, so Sagan is for his sport."
" It was an absolutely incredible piece of bike racing from Sagan. He just turns up with 300m to go, beautifully placed. He found the right way and nudged his way through. He knew who he had to follow. It's just quality - he's getting better and better."
WHAT DID SAGAN SAY?
Gold medalist Slovakia's Peter Sagan (C), silver medalist Norway's Alexander Kristoff (L) and bronze medalist Australia's Michael Matthews pose with their medals after the men elite road race of the UCI Cycling Road World Championships in Bergen, on SepteGetty Images
Sagan just seemed to be enjoying the moment, toying with reporters as he joked: “I didn’t have a strategy”. He also played down the wider significance of his achievement, while revealing what it meant to him personally.
" I'm not sure if it will change anything in the world but it's nice. Every one is special for something, for sure for me personally. The first one was not expected, the second for sure was not and this time everyone expected it up front but it was not easy. It was a special day. I don't know, maybe it's karma that I won. I'm very happy. It's a special win for me, it's unbelievable. "
At 27, Sagan has plenty left in the tank but his life is about to be turned upside down. His wife, Katarina, is eight months pregnant and he will not race again this season as he prepares for imminent fatherhood.
He was asked after his victory in Bergen whether becoming a parent might erode his hunger for glory – and didn’t entirely dismiss the proposition…
" Do you want me to stop racing? First let me enjoy it. I hope to do well in races next year but you never know in this sport. I live day by day. Who knows what is going to happen tomorrow."
His rivals in the peloton may secretly hope this is the case - otherwise Sagan's imperious dominance could continue.