He told Cyclingnews that in 2024, he will race with the Specialized Factory Racing team with the aim of making it to next year’s Paris Olympic Games in the mountain bike cross-country category. The MTB world championship race was merely the first step towards that objective.
But it won’t be easy making it to Paris next year. Sagan’s native Slovakia is 37th in the UCI nations ranking in the MTB discipline, and only the top 19 nations start. In addition, his road racing career is not over yet. “I have to still finish on the road this year with Team TotalEnergies,” he said. “I have to do Plouay [the Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France on September 3], and in the middle of September, I have another race, and finish with the last race in (the Tour de) Vendée [on October 1] in France.”
When the 33-year-old Sagan finally does leave road racing for good, it will mark both a return to his cycling roots and the end of one of the most remarkable careers in the sport. In 2008, he won both the Junior European and World Championships in MTB cross-country.
The following year, he transitioned to road and ended up winning the Tour de France Škoda Green Jersey a record seven times, a total of 18 Grand Tour stages, including 12 in the Tour, three consecutive World Road Race Championships, as well as a number of one-day Classics, such as the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. He also won the Tour de Pologne, in 2011, and the Tour of California, in 2015. In his career, Sagan won an impressive 121 races.
The partnership between Sagan and Specialized began in 2015 when he joined Tinkoff-Saxo. It continued when he moved to Bora-Hansgrohe two years later and it was maintained when Sagan went to TotalEnergies. He rode Specialized bikes in four of his seven Tour de France green jersey wins and all three Road Race World Championships. Sagan and Specialized also work together on Specialized brand bikes, shoes and apparel, after the company launched its Sagan Collection of products for public sale in 2018. Since then, Sagan has been a very prominent spokesman for the company, appearing in numerous commercials, including the very unusual “the Earth is flat” ad from 2019.
Even if he had been successful on the junior level, changing disciplines so late in his career will make it difficult for Sagan not only to make it to the Olympics but also to make a mark in MTB. But he is only 33 years old; the Swiss rider Nino Schurter won three of his ten MTB cross-country world championships at 33 and older. And Sagan is a remarkable talent with a fierce desire to win. If anyone can pull it off, it’s him.