In celebration of Peter Sagan, cycling's rock and roll frontman

As the three-time world champion is set to call time on his career in the WorldTour at the end of 2023, we thought we would take a look back at the glory days

Peter Sagan Paris-Roubaix
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“There’s not pressure anymore about whether I win or lose,” said Peter Sagan, as he announced to the world from San Juan in Argentina that 2023 would be his last season on the road. He is now getting ready to bring the curtain down on what has been a magnificent career in the WorldTour. 

Stepping back from the top level on the road with his team, TotalEnergies, will enable the Slovakian to target one final race, the mountain bike event at the Paris Olympics to wrap up his career on two wheels, something which he explained is all about the “enjoyment” and not about yet another accolade, an Olympic mountain bike gold medal.

“I always said I would like to finish my career on the mountain bike, because I started my career on the mountain bike,” Sagan said. “It gives me some pleasure at the end of my career because I’m doing something I really enjoy.”

That idea of pure, unfiltered enjoyment while riding is something which cycle racing’s perennial showman has encapsulated since day one. Throughout all of his 121 career victories, which has included three successive road World Championships, Sagan has been the literal embodiment of joy on the bike, which at the end of the day, cycling should be about for us all.

As he put the hammer down, and disappeared up the road on the cobbles of Flanders and in the dust of Roubaix, you can imagine him chuckling to himself as he left his rivals in all kinds of disarray, loving every second despite the inevitable pain surging through his legs. “Why so serious?!” says his Joker-inspired Batman tattoo after all, and that’s exactly it with Sagan, he has never taken himself too seriously. 

Like any elite-athlete, there will have always been that undying will to win, but I’ve always had the impression with him that if the two-up raid with Silvan Dillier at Roubaix, or the sprint finish at the Qatar worlds hadn’t come off, he wouldn’t have necessarily cared, as he was simply just loving every second of being in the moment racing his bike instead, and the wins were always just added extra bonuses. 

Peter Sagan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

That famous win at the 2018 Paris-Roubaix will remain one of my personal favourite Sagan moments. As he moved his way through the bunch on that spring afternoon, he casually bunny hopped over road furniture and bounced around like an excited child testing out the new BMX he got for Christmas on the way to school. 

When he eventually found himself in the day's breakaway, he even had time to whip out an allen key and casually adjust his handlebars himself as he thundered towards the Roubaix Velodrome.

When the hallowed track eventually arrived, Sagan kept his cool in the moment, forcing Dillier high onto the banking before swooping towards the line like a rainbow-coloured peregrine falcon hunting its prey. With respect to Dillier, the win was always in the bag, and the harsh reality is that I’m sure the Swiss rider knew that too.

As he sprinted away towards the line, Sagan punched the air with glee as a second monument victory was secured, both while wearing the rainbow bands of the reigning world champion.

Peter Sagan

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Curse of the rainbow jersey? What curse of the rainbow jersey? Nothing more than a ridiculous myth which cycling’s answer to Liam Gallagher kicked well and truly into touch. Julian Alaphilippe should have taken note.

With the emergence of riders of the likes of Wout van Aert, Mathieu van der Poel and Tom Pidcock, Sagan’s days as a top-level classics star were always going to be numbered. With that in mind, he may not win again at WorldTour level, or at least on the biggest stage, in what we now know will be his final year.

Although when you’ve won a record breaking seven-Tour de France green jerseys and 12 individual stages, the world championships on three occasions, Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, as well as countless other races, what else is there possibly left to win on the road for a rider of his style? 

Milan-San Remo maybe, or even more wins at the Tour. Although if none of that materialises in one final year, you can imagine Sagan won’t care. He’s already had a fine career in elite-level road racing, notching up the kind of palmarès that plenty of pros can only ever dream about. Not only that, but it’s been achieved with bucketful's of panache, style and effervescent personality. 

The word legend gets bandied around in sport far too often, but Peter Sagan really will go down in road racing history as being one. Let’s enjoy the show for one final year while it lasts, as there won’t be a rider like him again.

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