When Peter Sagan crossed the line of the 2016 world championships in Qatar, few could argue that he had not earned the right to retain his rainbow jersey.
Although Sagan had played down his chance to retain the rainbow stripes, many could see his massive dominance throughout 2016 pointing towards only one conclusion.
With the 2017 season kicking off this month, the Slovakian rider would have been looking to make an early statement of intent for the year with at the very least a few stage wins at the Tour Down Under; the first stage race of the year.
But despite not getting the better of team Orica-Scott’s Caleb Ewan in any of the sprint finishes in Australia, Sagan feels that his position of 2nd overall on General Classification suggests that he has a great 2017 to look forward to after he put in the hard miles during the winter.
“I feel very good. I am not at the top but I am taking back my condition slowly but for sure I will be good later,” Sagan said after the final stage in downtown Adelaide.
“Now I turn back in Europe and going to make a team camp. The next races will be in Belgium, what’s the name? It’s Brussels and Het Volk. They change the name…. then its Strade Bianche and Tirreno-Adriatico.”
Going back to Europe, Sagan will continue to train for the 2017 season. This year marks a season where he will be competing with a different team (Bora-Hansgrohe) to that of his past two seasons of dominance, after Oleg Tinkov closed the Tinkov-Saxo at the end of the 2016 season.
Adjusting to the new team may have played a part in Sagan’s inability to notch a stage win in South Australia, but despite the lack of wins he was the star of the show.
Aussie fans cheered on home riders Ewan and overall winner of the Tour Richie Porte to success but the love for Sagan was overwhelming. And the Slovak repaid this enthusiasm, signing autographs and taking selfies with fans everywhere he went.
Sagan’s likeable nature and coolness makes his dominance these past two years all the more endearing as he does not seem to have the ego of other sports stars. Indeed this love and respect is seen in riders of opposing teams, with Bernie Eisel, who leads Mark Cavendish out with team Dimensions Data, saying of Sagan:
“He’s unbelievable, I don’t care if he wins the green jersey another five times. He’s definitely the best guy out there, he can win on every parcours.
“He’s good for our sport because he attracts people from outside cycling. You like it or you don’t. I think he’s just cool. Other riders say they don’t have time for such fun, but he just does it.”
A strong second place showing in the first stage race of the year makes it really seem like Sagan means business yet again. Despite myself, I just can’t see anyone challenging him on the road when he is at his best, and so I expect him to once again be celebrating on the podium of the World Championships in Bergen in September.