Sagan (BORA-hansgrohe) beat an impressive Travis McCabe from the USA national team as well as young German sprinter Max Walscheid (Sunweb) to score his first victory since January’s Tour Down Under and career 17th of this race.
The three-time world champion has a less is more attitude in interviews. His short, simple answers punctuated with an eastern European accent and Danny Zuko-style laugh appeals to audiences that follow him across the globe. He is one of few high-profile riders who can actually get away with saying something and nothing at the same time without prosecution from the media.
Beneath the Zuko persona and humour designed sometimes to be genuinely funny, other times deflective and even prickly, however, is a consummate businessman, who was in full flight following stage one of the Tour of California.
Sagan took the first leader’s jersey of the race with his stage victory on a flat circuit around Sacramento that was more tailored to pure sprinters than himself. He walked into the post-race press conference downtown with the yellow jersey fitted on his shoulders and a pair of 100% branded motocross goggles hanging around his neck.
The 29-year-old has never spelled out his deal with the company he advertises by wearing the goggles on most of the ceremonial podiums he now graces. However, a quick Google search reveals Sagan has an eponymous limited-edition collection with 100%. Around his neck, they look a bit absurd, like a winter accessory that categorically clashes with the rising mercury outside. The former Paris-Roubaix champion doesn’t deliver some rehearsed PR line when he’s asked about them in interviews. He’d rarely say more than two or three words about the glasses, always offset with that Zuko laugh. He knows you will research the odd-looking outer layer later if he says less. He does what he’s paid to do – advertise – without looking like a scripted sell-out.
The Slovak’s victory in California comes hours after his teammate, German national champion Pascal Ackermann won stage two of the Giro d’Italia. And Sagan doesn’t waste time getting that into his own winner’s press conference on the other side of the world, weaving it into his first response.
“I’m very happy for that and I have to thank all my teammates, they helped me a lot today, they kept me in the front and in the end, we had a few riders for the sprint, and I won,” he said. “And also, congrats to my teammate Ackermann, he also won today in the Giro. We have a double in the team, it’s very nice.”
Sagan has ruled out his chances of competing for the Tour of California title, pointing instead to teammates Felix Großchartner or Max Schachmann in lieu of the mountainous route that kicks upward Tuesday (AEST) with a 214.5km run to South Lake Tahoe.
On a day when he calmly took line honours to satisfy himself and the fans, got on the podium to extensively promote the team and personal sponsors, and was reassured of his form, looking toward the Tour de France, his job is already done.