Peter Sagan has confirmed he won’t compete in the mountain bike event at the 2020 Olympic Games, choosing not to repeat his exploits in Rio four years earlier.
The Slovakian has left the door open for him to travel to Tokyo next year and compete, but says he doesn’t have the time to prepare and qualify for the mountain bike event, which is also unsuited to him as it features a lot of climbing.
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When asked whether he planned to race the mountain bike event, the Bora-Hansgrohe rider told Dutch newspaper AD: “[The course] appeals to me, but it’s too difficult to fit into my schedule. At some point you need to race to qualify, and it takes a lot of energy and preparation. Maybe again in the future. I’d like to go to the Olympics, but the course looks too heavy for me. There’s too much climbing.”
Sagan has only won four races this year, stages at the Santos Tour Down Under, Tour of California, Tour de Suisse and the Tour de France, where he also picked up a record-breaking seventh green jersey.
Despite illness blighting his early season, a rider of Sagan’s stature is inevitably asked to explain why he didn’t win at least a handful of Classics as well as a fourth Worlds.
“I don’t see it like that [as a disappointing season]. The difference between first and second can be millimetres,” Sagan said. “I’m still motivated. I still have goals. I had some stomach problems early in the year and I lost some weight. It took a while to recover, but I rode well at the Tour.”
The Slovakian will turn 30 in January, and with a new generation of sprinters coming through it will only become tougher for him to take the big wins he’s become accustomed to during his career. One of his principal current and future rivals will be Mathieu van der Poel (Corendon-Circus), who will be targeting the mountain bike event next year in Tokyo.
Van der Poel came to road racing after making his name as a cyclocross sensation, and despite making the pivotal break at the Yorkshire Worlds men’s road race he eventually finished 10 minutes down after bonking with 10km to go. Sagan, who also cut his racing teeth in mountain biking and cyclocross in his youth, says one of the main differences between the disciplines is that experience counts above form on the road.
“There is a big difference between those disciplines and road cycling,” Sagan said. “For cyclocross and mountain biking, you drive a full body for an hour on your own. You need experience in road races. You must use your head. You can’t always drive on instinct.”