• Will Sagan get some more medal tasting opportunities in Rio? (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Road World Champion Peter Sagan was comparatively downbeat about his chances in the mountain bike race in Rio on Sunday.
By
Cycling Central

18 Aug 2016 - 12:43 PM 

The man who once said 'every stage is for me' was pretty humble in comparison when talking about his medal chances against the best mountain bikers in the world.

"Technically, I am not bad. I am not here to lose," said Sagan who won the 2008 junior cross-country world title. "Can I win? If I lose, I am not disappointed. If I win, it's so good."

In January, Sagan reconned the Rio road race with Tinkoff teammates Maciej Bodnar and Pawel Poljanski and decided the course did not suit his characteristics. In June, it was announced by the Slovak Olympic Committee that Sagan would be awarded its sole male mountain bike starting place.

After a very successful Tour de France where he won three stages, wore the yellow jersey and won the points classification for a fifth straight year, the world champion headed to North American for altitude training and limited racing in Utah and Wyoming, opting to ride Pierre's Hole 50 where he took the victory.

"I have not raced mountain bike in seven years. A lot of things have changed," said Sagan, "I'm here for more personal reasons. I want to try. I will give the maximum for sure."

"I raced the road race in London and I already wanted to race mountain bike there but it was not possible," he said. "For sure, it's a big dream for me."

While the top XCO riders like Nino Schurter (Switzerland) and Julien Absalon (France) are well aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses, with years of testing each other in competition, Sagan will be somewhat of a wild card and unknown quality.

"It's all about one day. All about one and a half hours. The tactics I will decide during the race. You can lose the race in the start, but it could be good. Maybe if I am lucky, and I can go to the front pretty fast. Maybe I will waste too much energy," Sagan said.

"I did my best in training. I will do my best Sunday. No one knows what the hell to expect. Maybe it's more fun that way."

One of his key opponents will be 2-time gold medallist Julien Abslaon, who spoke about Sagan and did a training ride with the Slovakian over the course.

“It’s great to see that despite his success on the road, Sagan is still very passionate about his first cycling discipline,” said Absalon.

"It looks like he still rides his mountain bike regularly, and has fun riding off-road. I think he will feel a big lack of race rhythm, but it’s definitely going to be interesting to have him there and to see what he can achieve.”

Current world champion Nino Schurter was more blunt in his assessment of Sagan's chances.

“He sure has a great talent for being an excellent mountain biker," said Nino Schurter, "he proved this in his early career."

"But despite this fact, he has a huge lack of experience over the past years and he has to start in the very back. I don’t think he will have anything to do with the outcome of the race.”

Eyebrows were raised after Sagan chose not to participate in the road race and those questions were again raised when Greg van Avermaet, a rider with similar characteristics to Sagan, took out gold in the event.

"I'm surprised in the victory of Greg Van Avermaet, but the road race in the Olympics is a strange race," said Sagan.

"There is not a strong field, it depends on the legs, it depends on the luck. He was also a bit lucky due to the crash involving the others, but the Olympic gold medal is for all of life."