Happy Birthday to the Velvet Samurai

He’s the Tourminator, SuperSagan, the Velvet Samurai … and he’s turning 23 today. I had a chat with Panache about the birthday boy and we also came up with a fun challenge for all your Sagan fans out there!

Kitty: So, Panache, what were you doing when you were 23? I had just come over to London and was living in a cold-water bedsit in Ladbroke Grove. The world was my oyster but certainly not in the way it is for Peter Sagan on his 23rd birthday!

Panache: I was halfway though college (studying photography) and I married my lovely wife when I was 23. (I know – so young!) I certainly wasn’t popping wheelies, winning multiple stages in Grand Tours, or signing breasts with a Sharpie. Okay, maybe the breasts part but don’t tell Mrs Panache.

Kitty: My lips are sealed but I might send her a picture of Bernie Eisel, just out of the blue, because of that admission!

The rise of the Velvet Samurai

Kitty: But the name Velvet Samurai, Panache, why did you start calling him that? I remember it was around the time of the Tour of California and he was winning everything in sight – you made that really cool t-shirt for Cyclismas – but I don’t remember how you came to the name! (And isn’t the t-shirt a collector’s item now?)


Panache: Good memory, Kitty! It was around the Tour of California! Sagan was scorching everyone. Leslie Cohen (@cyclismaseditor) and I were discussing his domination with a big group of people on Twitter. We all decided we needed a nickname for this phenom from Slovakia. Everyone thought that Peter was so smooth yet so deadly and that’s when it hit me. Let’s call him the Velvet Samurai! We all loved it and starting using it every time we talked about Sagan. I’m not sure if Sagan knows we call him that, but we’re not going to stop. And yes, the shirt is a collector’s item. It’s so collectable that I don’t even own one! (Ahem, @UCI_Overlord, *chuckle*)  But I have seen Overlord wearing it when he’s appeared on @Tourchats. It’s a great looking shirt.

Kitty: First rule of t-shirt design, then, should be: make sure you have a sample of your own work! 🙂

It happened in July …

Kitty: But it was the Tour de France where SuperSagan really cut a swathe through the peloton. He even toyed with My Beloved Cancellara™ on stage one to take his first TdF stage, on his way to the green jersey. Granted Mark Cavendish didn’t have the team behind him, but Sagan absolutely bossed the sprints.

Panache: Yeah, he killed the sprints but my favourite Sagan moment in the 2012 Tour was on stage 14 when he and two other riders escaped from the peloton during the descent after the first climb. They were then joined by eight other riders, including Philippe Gilbert and Luis Leon Sanchez. With none of the 11 escapees posing a threat in the overall GC, the peloton let them go. A small group led by Sanchez turned the screws on the climb and they appeared to have dropped Sagan. But the Velvet Samurai didn’t give up and bridged back up to the Sanchez group. The look on Sanchez’s face when he saw that Sagan had returned was priceless. He was astonished. Sanchez ended up using his time trial skills to escape and finished first on the stage. Sagan finished second and showed that he was capable of being a threat, no matter the terrain.

Kitty: Oh YES, I remember that! And I remember that look – I think you and I probably were going crazy together on Twitter about it, as we usually do when we’re watching races (virtually) together! I was really impressed with that – he didn’t panic, he just kept powering up that hill. Thanks for reminding me, that’s a brilliant Sagan story.

And he even has a sense of humour

Kitty: With Vincenzo Nibali moving to Astana and Ivan Basso in the twilight of his career, SuperSagan is Cannondale’s undisputed star and the sky’s the limit. There’s Milan-San Remo – who knows what he might do in the Classics! – and of course the Grand Tours. It’s going to be a great season! I just hope that he keeps his exuberance and playfulness because that makes him so special.

Panache: Yep, I can’t wait to see what he does at Milan-San Remo. And Kitty, your boy Fabs better keep an eye on him at Flanders too.

Kitty: Oh, he will! But I won’t go into how absolutely wonderful Fabs is … that’s for another column.

Panache: I also think the Amstel Gold Race suits him perfectly. Can you imagine him on the stage with the Amstel podium girls?  Beware of Sharpies, ladies. He’ll want to sign those … Coaster hats!

Kitty: You know, this year I might just try to make myself one of those coaster hats – in fact, I might go for the whole skirt AND the rosette!

VELOVOICES CHALLENGE: We triple-dog-dare all Sagan fans to commemorate the day by doing either a Forrest Gump or Hulk impersonation today – it can be when you get to the front of the queue at the coffee shop, when you’ve beat one of your mates in a sprint as you’re out riding, or when you walk in the door of your house at the end of the day. Come on! Get it documented and send us your pictures! The best ones go up on VeloVoices’ Facebook page and possibly even … Tweets of the Week! Tweet them to @VeloVoices, #SuperSagan! 

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