Name: Peter Sagan
Age: 21 (turns 22 on Jan 26th)
2011 WorldTour ranking: 22
Twitter: None (@Peter_Sagan is not an official account)
- Vuelta a Espana: won stages 6, 12 & 21, 4th in points classification
- Giro di Sardegna: won stages 1, 3 & 4, 1st overall, 1st in points classification
- Tour of California: won stage 5, 1st in points classification
- Tour de Suisse: won stages 3 & 8, 1st in points classification
- Tour of Poland: won stages 4 & 5, 1st overall, 1st in points classification
- 13 stage wins in total, plus two overall victories
Why I like him:
Peter may be the younger of the two Sagan brothers on the Liquigas squad – he does not turn 22 until a fortnight’s time, whereas Juraj was 23 just before Christmas – but he has already made a significant impression on the cycling world. In his first season with Liquigas in 2010 he took stage victories at Paris-Nice, the Tour of California (two each) and the Tour de Romandie. And last year he catapulted himself into the top echelon of sprinters, winning three stages at the Vuelta, two at the Tour de Suisse and an impressive overall victory at the Tour of Poland.
Sagan is a sprinter more in the mould of a Thor Hushovd than a Mark Cavendish, although he is less bulky than the Norwegian. He combines impressive acceleration with the power to stay in touch on the climbs as the pure fast men disappear rapidly backwards into the gruppetto.
Twice last year I watched in amazement as he proved what a gutsy climber he is. He clung grimly on to the coat-tails of Dan Martin’s ferocious attacks to successfully preserve a slender overall lead on the rolling hills of the Tour of Poland. But even more impressive was his stage win at the Tour de Suisse, where he stayed close enough to Damiano Cunego on the Grosse Scheidegg (a 16.3km climb averaging 7.7%) to catch him on the descent and take a stunning victory.
It is that fighting spirit as much as his raw power which impressed me the most. He probably won’t beat Cavendish on a level finish at the end of a flat transition stage, but he wouldn’t be far behind and is certainly fast enough and versatile enough to win races which feature uphill finishes or smaller categorised climbs near the end – Milan-San Remo, say, or the London Olympics course.
It’s too early in his career to say whether Sagan will end up as a sprint specialist or perhaps focus on the classics, but he certainly has the talent to consider either route. Expect him to add more wins – and several of them – to his already impressive palmares in 2012.
Where to see him in 2012:
Sagan will kick off his season in February at the Tours of Qatar and Oman before a busy spring programme which will include Tirreno-Adriatico and the one-day classics Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders and Amstel Gold. He will then return to the Tour of California in May (while Liquigas unleash their Italian sprinters at the Giro).
The second half of the season will see him enter his first Tour de France, but only as a build-up towards his stated main objective: the Olympic road race. With Box Hill to be climbed nine times, the course arguably favours Sagan more than it does home favourite Cavendish, and with only a maximum of five riders per team, Britain may not be able to control the race to set up a bunch finish. You heard it here first: put your money on Sagan for the gold.
Conditioning permitting, we may then see Sagan close out his season with an appearance at the Vuelta ahead of the World Championships in Limburg, Holland.
Watch out for regular updates tracking Peter Sagan’s 2012 season over the coming months.