Peter Sagan Ends Fabulous Road Racing Career

By Siegfried Mortkowitz

“A chapter closes, a new chapter begins,” Peter Sagan told Cyclingnews before the start of his last professional road race, Sunday’s Tour de Vendée. Starting next year, one of the most successful cyclists of all time will resume his career in MTB, which he gave up at the end of 2009 to join the Liquigas-Doimo team, for the modest salary of $1,000 a month. Since then, the 33-year-old Slovakian has earned many millions and won 121 races, including three consecutive world road race championships (2015-2017), 18 Grand Tour stages (12 in the Tour de France), 11 one-day Classics (including Gent-Wevelgem 3 times and the Tour of Flanders) and 18 stages in the Tour de Suisse.

His most impressive accomplishment, however, is his record of 7 Tour de France Škoda Green Jerseys, a feat that may never be matched by anyone and which exemplifies the skills that made him such a force on the road. He was very fast on the bike, fast enough to win some sprints but not the fastest, and he was a good climber but only on moderate climbs. He was also strong, smart and an excellent bike handler, from his early MTB days and as a result, he was nearly unbeatable in races that suited his particular strengths.

It is testimony to those strengths and his will to win that on his last race he led briefly in the final turn, inspiring visions of a storybook finale, but he did not have the legs for the final sprint and finished ninth, 5 seconds behind the winner, Arkéa Samsic’s Arnaud Démare. Always a consummate professional, Sagan was an enthusiastic participant in the Tour de Vendée because, as he put it, “This race is very important for the [TotalEnergies] team because this part of France is where they are based and they’ve organized a nice goodbye for me to celebrate my career, too. So there are going to be a lot of things to do and it’s going to be a pleasure to go there and see all the people who are supporting us.”

In January, when he announced his retirement from road racing, he said that the decision to retire was one of personal preference and the wish to put an end to his career on two wheels in the 2024 Olympics. “When I was in my 20s, I said that I wanted to finish my career in my 30s, and now I am 33,” the native of Žilina, then Czechoslovakia, told journalists in Argentina. “Also, I always said that I wanted to finish my career with the mountain bike. I started my career on the mountain bike, and I would like to finish with the mountain bike. This gives me a chance to try something that I really like for a year and then we will see.”

He added that his family had also played a big part in his decision. “And there is [my son] Marlon,” Sagan said. “I have already lost him so much over the past five years being in and out, in and out. It is important for me to spend time with him and see life from a different angle, not just as a cyclist. And if I am going to be able to finish my career in Paris at the Olympic Games, that’s going to be something nice for me.”

Sagan has already participated in two Summer Olympics. In the 2012 road race in London, he finished 24th, and he finished 35th in the MTB cross-country at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. He still needs to accumulate enough points to make Slovakia eligible for the Paris Games. Currently, the country is in the 37th position in the UCI nations rankings but only the top 19 nations will be invited to Paris.

Sagan’s rival and fellow cycling elder statesman Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) took to social media to express what many cyclists and cycling fans are thinking: “Congrats on a road career most of us can only dream of. Although I’m pretty sure you inspired this new generation that can do pretty much everything, so no thanks for that [with a laughing emoji].”