Is dirt his one true love after all?
Peter Sagan is the Aaron Gwin of road racing. Except that he’s much more interesting than straight-edge Gwin.
He was awarded a wildcard place in the Olympic MTB event after the Slovakian Olympic crew requested one.
Sagan used to ride and race mountain bikes back when he first started out in elite level bike racing. So this will be return to his off-road roots, of a sort.
This will be Sagan’s third cross-country mountain bike race this season after competing in Austria and Czech Republic in April, the latter of which saw him finish fourth and secure enough points to qualify to race in Rio. He was awarded Slovakia’s sole place in the 50-rider field.
Who is Sagan?
26 year old Sagan is from Slovakia.
Sagan is the current road race world champion, respected as a tough all-rounder who can sprint and climb short, sharp hills with equal finesse.
His flamboyant style – certainly in the relatively staid world of road racing – has earned him many fans.
The only blot on his record in recent years was an incident involving a podium girl’s bottom.
Why isn’t he doing the Olympic road race?
It’s too hilly, essentially.
Sagan rode the Olympic road race course earlier in the year and decided that it was too hilly for his talents.
He decided he had a better chance of a medal for himself and Slovakia by contesting the mountain bike race.
Sagan’s latest statement: “I’m proud to be able to race the most important mountain bike race in the calendar at the biggest sports event in the world. It’s nice for me to return to my roots, representing my Slovakia. It is always an honour for every athlete to represent their home country in the Olympics.
“I would like to thank team owner Oleg Tinkov, general manager Stefano Feltrin, and, of course, the entire team, for their support, and for a successful Tour de France that leads me into this race. Now after three stage wins and the green jersey, plus the mountains jersey for Rafal Majka, I can head to Rio confident in my shape. It will not be easy but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Is he going to sink or swim in the Olympic MTB race?
It’s hard to say.
Sagan has the knack for winning races at the moment. His confidence will be at an all-time high after an impressive Tour De France performance.
Having said that, it’s unlikely he’ll get a medal but he could possibly make the top 10. It should be good to watch him race against Team GB’s Grant Ferguson actually for a top 10 spot.
He entered a couple of MTB events after the road racing Classics season, having to push to the end of his first race because of a crash (see the video at top of page).
But let’s not forget that Sagan does know how to handle a mountain bike. In the video above, which dates from 2014 when Sagan rode for Cannondale, he’s quite clearly a handy bike rider.
Sagan in the Olympic podium? Stranger things have happened. Thankfully there won’t be any podium girls present.