Hi Peter. Today we’re in Qatar, next week Oman. Do you keep track of the countries you’ve seen?
I’ve been to many countries, but it’s a different thing to race than it is to visit a country as a tourist. When you are at a race you compete, return to the hotel, have a massage and sleep. You get up and do it again the next day. You don’t see a lot.
>> Struggling to get to the shops? Try 6 issues of Cycling Weekly magazine for just £6 delivered to your door <<
If you had time, where would you like to travel?
This winter, I travelled in America. I made a visit to Specialized’s headquarters in California so that they could analyse my position on the bike and to get to know the boss, Mike Sinyard. Since I was going anyway, I decided to also make a trip of it with my girlfriend.
Where did you go?
I was in Mexico for 12 days relaxing. I was in San Francisco, then Las Vegas for three or four days. I saw the Grand Canyon and then New York City for three days. That was the first time I’ve had a vacation in the US even though I’d been before for races.
Did you travel much before becoming a pro cyclist?
We travelled as a family by car to Croatia. We also took a bus trip to France: my parents and the four kids. But once I started racing, I began travelling all around the surrounding countries: Austria, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy…
How did you get into cycling?
It’s all thanks to Juraj, my brother who joined Tinkoff-Saxo with me this year. I saw him racing and I wanted to do the same thing. I started a year later when I was nine years old.
What is your hometown Zilina like?
It’s worth popping by if you are in Slovakia. For me, it’s beautiful because I grew up there, I have family there, I have friends there, and a home. But maybe someone goes there and says, “Who could live here?” That’s a normal reaction. I wouldn’t be able to live in New York or Milan.
But you could live in Monaco?
Monaco is different — firstly because I’m in Monaco for cycling. In Slovakia,
it snows through the winter. The climate of Monaco is so much more favourable. It never rains over the winter, it’s always 14°C and it’s beautiful. Also, in Slovakia, my private life is almost nonexistent because everyone knows me there. In Monaco, I feel better. I can concentrate on my bike much more than I could back in Zilina.
What do you miss about Zilina?
Everything. My family, my friends. They make you feel at home.
How did you meet your girlfriend Katarina?
I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight, I don’t think I’m that type of guy, but I
did fall in love later. It was three years ago we met. With my dad I wanted to create a sporting centre for young kids. We talked with construction companies about how we could do it. One of the men that I talked to happened to be Kate’s brother.
After the Classics, I was in Slovakia for five days and I had a barbecue. I invited her brother, who was passing by my town from some other work. He stopped for the party and she came too.
Did she change your life?
For sure, yes. I don’t live the single life now. A girlfriend changes your life quite a bit.
No pinching podium girls’ bottoms?
I can’t do that anymore.
What did you make of the TweeterSagan parody account on Twitter?
I’ve never even seen it. This world of Twitter… why does one always have to look to see what the others are doing? I don’t even think about it. Maybe the person who does that is a loser. Someone who’s doing that all the time can’t be normal.
Have they contacted you?
No, but I’ve had people buying a website address with my name and wanting to sell it to me. What do I care?
We’ve seen your bike skills on YouTube. Have you learnt any new tricks recently?
I have less and less time to do so, and I have more and more responsibilities so I can’t practise them as much as I used to. They are the tricks that I learned when I was a boy, training day after day, doing those things. At times, doing those jumps and wheelies were more exciting to me than training. I didn’t like training.
You won the junior title at the mountain bike Worlds and a silver medal in the junior cyclo-cross Worlds. What was your first love?
Mountain bikes. After a year of doing that, I began racing on the road. Now that’s my job, I really don’t get a chance to ride mountain bikes anymore. There is just not time when racing at the WorldTour level.
This interview was originally published in the May 2015 issue of Cycle Sport magazine.