Rider of the week
A big win has eluded Peter Sagan for a couple of years now. Ever since turning pro, he was destined to greatness, but he seemed to miss on the big opportunities, as was the case in Milan-Sanremo, the Tour of Flanders or Tour de France stages. He had all that it took to land a memorable victory, but for some reason the pieces of the puzzle never came together, and this situation led to seeds of doubt being planted in his mind and developing into a huge frustration which eventually put its tool for some time on his ride and results.
Besides that and the criticism coming from his team’s owner, people were starting to question the Slovak’s ability to go all the way in a 250 km-long race and began to dub him the “Perennial Second”. Things didn’t change after the first half of the season, inspite of his Tour of California win, the main reason being his near misses in the same Spring Classics and the Grande Boucle, but a more than encouraging sign came in the Vuelta a España, where he scored a stage victory and showed to be at a very high level, before being taken out by a TV moto.
Coming into the World Championships, Peter Sagan was seen as one of the biggest contenders for the rainbow jersey on the technical and inner-city road circuit of Richmond, despite the fact he had only two teammates and that his best result in the race was a sixth place, at the 2013 edition, in Firenze. But this time, in contrast to other events in which he started as a top favourite, he had a different approach, more commonly known in the peloton as the “ninja strategy”: the 25-year-old stayed “invisible” all day long, but always in the top 20, without chasing the attacks of others and spending his energy in futile actions.
Then, in the final lap, he pounced on the penultimate ascent of the day – the cobbled 185 m-long 23rd Street – and got clear from the pack, leaving behind the only two riders who tried to join him, Edvald Boasson Hagen (the 2012 runner-up) and Belgium’s Greg Van Avermaet. Pushing hard in the closing kilometers and never looking back, Sagan managed to increase his lead and hold off the frantic chase, before enjoying his biggest triumph up-to-date, one that he was waiting for too long and which will give a whole new dimension to his career.
After storming to this impressive and spectacular win, which proved he is more mature and down to earth than he was in his first seasons as a pro, Peter Sagan will now have to deal with the huge pressure the world title will bring next year, when he is going to try and earn his place in the elite club of world champions who haven’t been touched by the “rainbow jersey curse”.