He has barely spent a day at the Tour without attending the podium ceremony since his debut in 2012. He collects prize jerseys with such regularity that he needs to find new ways of amusing himself while answering questions.
“He” is Peter Sagan and his take on cycling is refreshing. It’s also amusing and his laughter to himself after his responses is usually matched by many in the press room.
— BORA – hansgrohe (@BORAhansgrohe) July 2, 2017
Remember the notion of setting records in sport and how fans and the media dress that up into something that makes athletes larger than life characters? That tradition continues for some as they strive to collect The Most or be The Fastest.
But Sagan is his own man. Don’t believe it if someone says he cares if he breaks Erik Zabel’s “record” for wins in the points classification at the Tour. The Slovakian world champion couldn’t give a damn. It’s not at all important to him.
Someone did dare to ask about it.
Q. “I talked to Erik Zabel this morning and he holds the record for six green jerseys. How important would that be for you to equalise this record?”
A. “Ah. It’s not important.”
He giggled. Looked down at the table. Played with his hair and then at least showed a little bit of respect to the journalist and attempted to conjure a further explanation.
“We’ll see day by day,” he said, slipping into the auto-pilot method others go for when queried about their sporting quests. But then he reverted to The Sagan Method of answering questions – tell it like it is!
“And ah, what will change in the world if I win the green jersey or not? Nothing. And it’s not important. There are more important things in life."
His wife, Katarina, is expecting a baby in a few months. That’s one thing that may change the manner of Peter Sagan but we can safely assume that, even in parenthood, the boyish nature of this champion rider won’t change too much.
When asked about how he received news about the pregnancy, he laughed (again, of course) and said, “We had a party!”
And with his one-liner delivered, again he found a way to expand his reply.
“It’s a nice feeling but I’m here for the race and the race is always hard.
“When I see my wife and her tummy – her belly? – is growing and it’s nice to see her. But still, the kid is not here and we have to still wait three, four months and we will see after.
“I’m just hoping the baby will be healthy. That is more important. The most important, I think. And we will see."
He would talk about racing, about his eighth stage win at the Tour de France, about pulling his foot from the pedal just as he was about to launch his sprint. He would insist that the goggles around his neck were for motocross – “not skiing!” He would pull at the peak of his cap and play with his hair and fiddle with the microphone. And he would keep on laughing at the answers he gave while seeming to not give a damn what anyone thought about his antics.
He is Peter Sagan and he’s a refreshing dose of reality in a world where the emphasis on what’s important is often skewed.
Winning is great and he does that so often that he seems compelled to find new ways to make the rigmarole more fun and less of a strain at the end of over five hours of frantic racing over hills and through valleys – 212.5km at almost 43km/h with a nasty, hard sprint up a steep climb at the end.
Surrounded by some of the world’s best climbers, this phenomenon deserves a category all of his own – not ‘sprinter’, not ‘puncheur’, not ‘rouleur’… rather, quite simply the title that best suits his kind of cycling was confirmed again at the end of stage three. ‘Winner.’
Listen to him, however, and he’ll remind you that not even winning is all that important.
He insists that he’s “not won everything” and that there are still races he’d like to conquer but what provides him with inspiration? Fun. Isn’t that why he’s always laughing – even if it’s only at his own jokes?
“What is my motivation? Maybe this prize on me,” he says, pulling at the rainbow stripes on his sleeve. “And ah, I’m trying to make cycling a little bit of fun – it’s not always serious.
“Maybe that is the best way to find some motivation.”
He enjoys himself.
He is Peter Sagan.