Sagan was one of more than 40 riders forced to abandon the race because of the coronavirus, in what one French newspaper described as “a carnage.” It is unclear if this mass outbreak will have consequences for the Tour, which kicks off in Copenhagen in less than two weeks. But for Sagan, this latest setback may just be the proverbial last straw in his quest to be ready for the Grand Départ in Copenhagen.
Sagan had previously been sidelined by Covid in February 2021 and at the beginning of this year, an illness that provoked a series of setbacks, which caused him to miss three months of racing. Ironically, his victory in a mass sprint in stage 3 of the Tour de Suisse seemed to signal a return to form for the 32-year-old Slovak. It remains to be seen how much this latest misfortune will set him back.
The Tour de Suisse stage victory was his first win in more than nine months and came after a series of personal reverses. First, in January, came Covid.
In early March he dropped out of Tirreno-Adriatico, complaining of fever and stomach problems. He then skipped the Tour of Flanders and tried to come back in the Circuit de la Sarthe, only to drop out before the end of the second stage. That event forced him to pass on Paris-Roubaix. It also created headlines around the cycling world, with Sagan and his new team, Team TotalEnergies, unable to provide details about his state of health. “I don’t feel well, I often feel tired and I’ve got to find out why,” Sagan told La Gazzetta dello Sport at the time.
His press officer Gabriele Ubaldi told Tuttobiciweb, “His legs hurt far more than normally and he finds it difficult to make big efforts. He sometimes feels light-headed and is often really tired.” He then went to France for tests and was eventually allowed to join his team’s high-altitude training camp in Utah at the end of April. The Tour de Suisse victory was meant to signal his comeback, though the undemonstrative Sagan seemed to take it in stride. “It’s nice to be back,” he told an interviewer after the stage win. “It’s just a stage win. I’m happy for that and I’m happy for my team.”
He told another journalist, “I hope [that I’m back]. It was not easy, the last months, and it’s not easy to come back after a long break without racing… It’s nice to win but I hope I’m going to grow still for the Tour de France.”
All cycling fans were hoping that Sagan would be ready for the Tour, for a mano a mano with Jumbo-Visma’s Wout van Aert who has declared that he is going for the green jersey this year. With last year’s green jersey winner Mark Cavendish not riding in the Tour this year, and this year’s sprint stages tailored to favour the punchy sprinters, such as van Aert and Sagan as well as the indomitable Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix), it looked set to be a mouth-watering points classification competition.
But Sagan’s third struggle with Covid may be a bridge too far to cross even for the man who was once considered the best cyclist in the world. In his tweet, he said he was asymptomatic and feels well, so the illness may not cause him to lose much training time. It’s finger-crossing time for green-jersey aficionados.