Here we look back to the nine moments that have defined Peter Sagan‘s 2015 season. From a lacklustre Classics campaign to road race World Champion, a year that started badly could not have ended much better.
1. E3 Harelbeke: from lead break to finishing 30th
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Until 4.4km to go, Sagan was in the leading three man breakaway with Geraint Thomas and Zdenek Stybar.
Each man was taking their turn on the front and driving the break on as the chasing group hovered around 30 and 40 seconds. Some desperate pocket raiding with about 7km to go may have hinted at Sagan’s lagging energy levels, but his riding seemed ok for a little while after.
Thomas launched his attack with 4.4km to go and the Slovakian could do nothing whatsoever about it. Stybar watched Sagan hoping he’d drag Thomas back, and it was this pause that allowed the Welshman to get a gap which he held all the way to the win.
Sagan went from defending champion with a foot on the podium to broken man in what looked like a matter of a couple of pedal strokes.
He was then passed by the chasing group and finished in 30th place. This collapse of form was definitive of Sagan’s Classics campaign.
2. His struggles continue at Ghent-Wevelgem
Two days after the empty leg moment at E3, Sagan lined up to fight the wild weather conditions at Ghent-Wevelgem. Very strong winds caused a number of crashes, including Thomas who went flying over his handlebars.
Sagan did not cope well and finished almost seven minutes down on winner Luca Paolini.
3. Glimmers of hope but falls short at the Tour of Flanders
Having missed the winning move when Niki Terpstra and eventual winner Alexander Kristoff went away, Sagan distanced most of his chasing group companions at the top of the Paterberg and rode away with Greg Van Avermaet.
Unfortunately for Slovak road race champion, he once again came up short as Van Avermaet proved to be the stronger of the two and powered away to take the final podium position.
Third place in a Monument would have given Sagan something from an otherwise lacklustre Spring campaign.
4. Tinkov threatens to cut Sagan’s wages
This news actually came after Sagan’s win in California (see moment five, below) but was as a result of the rider’s early season European campaign.
Oleg Tinkov was looking to find a way of rewarding his riders for results and docking them when they under-perform.
Whatever came of this behind closed doors we may never know, but if it was all a ruse to get Sagan firing again then it certainly worked.
5. Turns his season around with a fantastic display in California
After a forgettable few months in European races, Sagan headed to California looking to find some form and results before the Tour de France in July.
Consistently brilliant all week, Sagan was only out of the top three once on any stage – and that was sixth on a summit finish.
The highlight of his week was the surprise win in the stage six time trial which put him into the overall lead. The aforementioned summit finish saw him drop to second overall behind stage winner Julian Alaphilippe but with an outside chance of regaining the jersey.
Available at the finish of the final stage were time bonuses of 10, six and four seconds for the first three finishers. A desperate lunge and a closely studied photo finish gave Sagan third on the stage and with it the overall win.
6. Builds form ahead of the Tour de France
In a positive couple of weeks in June Sagan looked to be finding the form he’d need for the upcoming Tour de France the following month.
Two stage wins and the points jersey at the Tour de Suisse showed his form, as did victories in both the Slovak national TT and road race.
7. Wins green without winning a stage at the Tour de France
He came second five times, third twice, fourth three times (including TTT) and fifth once.
Whether contesting bunch sprints or descending at high speed to try and catch a breakaway, Sagan was consistently up there in the results.
Such consistency gave him the points he needed to take his fourth green jersey of a possible four at the Tour. With Alberto Contador finishing fifth in his bid for a Giro-Tour double, Sagan’s points win gave Tinkoff-Saxo, and its outspoken owner, something to cheer.
8. Vuelta starts well, ends in disaster
He was also one of the favourites for the points jersey, and his team fully expected him to win that competition at the end of the three weeks.
However, things went badly wrong when Sagan was taken out by a race motorbike towards the end of stage eight and was forced out of the race due to his injuries.
Sagan then took time out to train ahead of a World Champs campaign, where his Tinkoff-Saxo team didn’t quite get the luck they needed in the team time trial. But the week certainly ended on a high note…
9. Becomes World Champion
We previously mentioned that perhaps, sometimes, the World Championships doesn’t necessarily decide the best rider in the world. In fact, we came up with a full six reasons as to why this was the case.
Clever tactics, a stinging dig to distance himself and a strong ride to hold the chase at bay, Sagan’s victory makes him a deserving winner and he’ll be a great ambassador for the rainbow stripes in next season’s races.