Is Peter Sagan the greatest cyclist of all time?
Here’s a thought-provoking question to kick off your weekend. Is Peter Sagan – our current world champion, a description he has carried for three years now – the greatest ever cyclist? We’re sure you’ll agree that it’s a question loaded with a whole host of complexities, awkward details and questionable context. Cycling is a sport which spans more than a century and it covers a landscape which has seen decades of evolution, controversy and development. So, what criteria might a candidate have to fulfil in order to be considered for the title of “greatest cyclist of all time”? A minimum number of Grand Tour wins? A full quota of Monument victories? A dearth of controversy (*cough* doping *cough*)?
Other solid contenders include the recently retired Alberto Contador, Fausto Coppi and Miguel Indurain, all of whom have amassed seven Grand Tour wins even under the shadows of speculation and doping culture. Then there are Sean Kelly, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx whose homes would have required a substantial extension for a trophy room come the close of their careers.
Peter Sagan has never won a Grand Tour, and probably never will, though you would be foolish to put it past him should he turn his mind to it. But you don’t have to be a Grand Tour rider to make the standard list, as Sean Kelly is testament to. Indeed, Eddy Merckx would probably still feature even if he hadn’t won all those three-week races, given the plethora of classics on his record and no less than nineteen Monument victories!
However, we think there are a host of reasons why Sagan already qualifies for the list of nominees. Let’s see if you’ll agree:
The winningest rider
At the ripe old age of *ahem* 27, Peter Sagan has gathered a staggering 101 pro wins since turning professional in 2010 with Liquigas. Let’s compare him for a moment to Tom Boonen, Mr Classics himself, who retired earlier this season. Boonen finished his career with Quick-Step Floors with 117 pro victories in his trophy cabinet. Yes, Sagan is a bit more of an all-rounder than Boonen, who couldn’t climb for toffee, but the popular Belgian seems like a pretty close and contextually relatable marker. What’s amazing is that Boonen’s huge haul of wins were accumulated over a fifteen year career compared to Sagan’s almost equal number scooped in half that time. It remains to be seen how much longer everyone’s favourite Slovakian can continue, but one thing’s for sure: the man shows no signs of slowing down.
Peter Sagan is without doubt cycling’s favourite entertainer. He seems to approach every race like it’s the first of the year, riding exactly how he wants to with little regard for convention and no apparent need for teammates (this is a myth, of course; his brother Juraj, Maciej Bodnar and Marcus Burghardt among others are owed a lot of beers by the world champ). We love Sagan for his untapped, wheelie-popping energy and characteristic panache.
Besides his exploits on the bike, Sagan has also gifted the world with some hilarious and bizarre videos inspired by his favourite films. Check out this compilation:
Sagan has got a far broader colour palette than most of his contemporaries and the right to add a bit of bling to his bike and kit thanks to his rainbow stripes. Helmets, bikes and shoes have all benefited from his world champ’s touch and you too can own a piece of this striking kit.
Some of the best cyclists in history and in the current era are multi-disciplinarians in that they mix mountain biking, cyclocross and track racing into their road racing calendars. Peter Sagan famously once won an amateur mountain bike race on his sister’s borrowed bike, and he has certainly exhibited superlative handling skills more commonly associated with the track and trail. It might be an episode he’d choose to forget given the mould of the ultimate victor of the Olympic road race, but the cycling world was excited to see Sagan arrive at the 2016 Rio Olympics with knobbly tyres. He raced in the cross-country race on the S-Works Epic just weeks after winning his fifth consecutive green jersey at the Tour de France. It didn’t go brilliantly, but it was just one day in an otherwise glittering two-wheeled career.
Peter Sagan is the face of our new Diverge launch. The adventure bike has had a major update optimising its performance and efficiency for all terrain. Check out the video featuring Sagan below.
The consummate all-rounder would be a rider who can ride on all terrains in all conditions at the top level. Peter Sagan certainly fits that mould. He has won sprints all over the world, three quite different World Championship races and entered unlikely Tour de France breakaways in the high mountains, even taking long turns on the front. It’s a surprise then that he’s only picked up a single Monument in his career: The Tour of Flanders. However, with many many years still stretching before him, we can expect epic performances in a whole range of races of different parcours. Eddy Merckx won every Monument at least once. Who’s to say that Sagan could not do the same?
Peter Sagan has been winning races since he turned pro in 2010 and he shows no sign of easing up. He has already said that he’s determined to approach 2018 in just the same way as he would any year; he will go after the green jersey at the Tour de France and attack the spring with characteristic enthusiasm. He has already proved literally to be a hard act to follow and he will surely be described in just the same way as he nears the end of his career.
Whether he could yet be labeled with the lofty title of “greatest ever” is a tough question to answer but he’s certainly got an outside chance in our hypothetical awards countdown. I reckon there’s something we can be pretty confident of though, albeit knocking hard on wood: Peter Sagan is the greatest cyclist in the post-doping era. What do you think?
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