By Jonny Long
Taking life lessons from the pro peloton may not be an easy or useful thing to do - eating like a sparrow, cycling until after the point at which your arse begins to hurt, I could go on - but one useful rule of thumb is if Peter Sagan is happy, you should probably be happy too.
Over the last few years, the three-rainbow-jerseys-in-a-row had finally disappeared off his back, picking up the Slovakian national champion's colours as consolation for another year, before being reduced to just his trade team outfit and not even a green jersey to pull over it at the Tour in 2020. In turn, Sagan was even more laconic than usual, maybe even a bit fed up with it all.
He'd already won everything that needed to be won, and a new supersonic generation was upturning the established order. Sam Bennett hauling himself over the mountains of the Tour de France to break his streak of green jerseys was the final straw. People no longer began to whisper, but dare to pose the question: "Is this the end of Peter Sagan?"
But then came the then-30-year-old's debut Giro d'Italia, at the end of the truncated 2020 season. It was October and he hadn't taken a victory yet, but 21 further race days provided ample time and sure enough stage 10 was his after a magnificient solo effort.
On the even of the 2021 Giro, Sagan sits down in front of his webcam grinning from ear to ear.
And why not? There is much to be grateful for. Europe's pandemic suffering seems like it's coming to an end and the Giro has fans at the roadside - bike racing looks normal again.
Sitting in the seat that team-mate Emanuel Buchmann has just vacated, Sagan asks the German if he wants to stay and answer the questions for him - the Slovakian already knows what's coming.
We don't know where you'll be next year [his future at Bora-Hansgrohe is currently uncertain], do you think about this a lot?
"Cycling is here, now I need to think about the race and then a new contract will arrive."
Are you here for stage wins or the maglia ciclamino?
"It’s important to win stages but if I do well in stages I will do well in the maglia ciclamino, we will see day-by-day."
Last year you arrived at the Giro at the ened of the season without a victory, having already won this season are you less stressed?
"The situation is different to last year because of Covid. I wouldn’t say I’m less stressed because I always want to do well."
This is par for the course with Sagan. When you're as successful and well-liked as he is you can say as little as you want and people will inevitably still listen.
But then he's asked if he still has the same hunger for victory as he used to, and here Sagan steps up to the plate with an absolute belter.
"If I see an opportunity I will seize it. My old coach says if there’s money on the floor you pick it up. It’s the same thing with victories."
So, winning Grand Tour stages are like finding a quid on the floor. Got it.
What is slightly more complex is the rest of the season, and Sagan will decide during this Giro whether he goes on to race this summer's Tour de France, as the Olympics and World Championships also beckon, as does Paris-Roubaix, now taking place a week after the battle for the rainbow jersey.
"I think it's time to stop now guys," the press officer buts in, before being ignored.
"What will you do once you retire?" comes another question.
"I don't know yet."
"And now in Slovak, could you explain what your goals are and how you’re feeling about the Giro…"
Sagan switches to a third language used in the past 15 minutes to answer the same questions. The world keeps spinning, the Slovakian keeps racing bikes. Maybe everything is going to be okay after all.
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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