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Tour contender?

Can Sagan mature into a tour winner asks Moore?

Richard Moore Posted 4th July 2012 view comments

Big things were expected of Peter Sagan at the Tour de France, and big things have duly been delivered.

He has won two of the three road stages, and in some style, with time to perform elaborate victory celebrations. After the hands-on-the-hips nonchalence and biceps-flexing routine in Seraing on Sunday, on Tuesday in Boulogne-sur-Mer we witnessed his impression of Forrest Gump running.

Sagan:great attitude

Sagan:great attitude

Sagan had been interviewed by French television before the start of the third stage. The 22-year old Slovakian was told that he had been tipped to be the new Laurent Jalabert - by Laurent Jalabert.

The vanity of ex-riders aside, the question of what kind of rider Sagan will become is an interesting one. Sunday and Tuesday confirmed that when it is hard enough to eliminate the pure sprinters, and not quite hard enough to select the pure climbers, it is Sagan territory. On short uphill finishes he looks unbeatable.

What can't Sagan do?

So we know what he can do. The question that remains is, what can he not do? Currently, he is not fast enough to win bunch sprints against the likes of Mark Cavendish, and he is not a good enough climber to compete with the specialists and general classification contenders in the high mountains.

What is most impressive about him is his attitude. From his first race as a professional, at the Tour Down Under in 2010, he has seemed fearless. The 19-year old Sagan attacked with Lance Armstrong in that first race, which was enough to catch the eye.

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

On Monday his coach suggested that he could mature into this second type of rider and one day win the Tour. I'm not sure. He has heavily muscled legs and - for a cyclist - broad shoulders. This could rule him out of challenging for the yellow jersey, though big riders have done it - Miguel Indurain, Jan Ullrich and Eddy Merckx were not exactly lightweight.

Indurain was 88kg, Ullrich 72kg and Merckx 82kg. Sagan is 73kg. So his weight does not disqualify him. But he is only 22 - he may fill out and gain more bulk. And then there is the type of rider he is - he is explosive, capable of generating huge surges of power; can he manage and sustain that over longer periods?

Ultimately it will come down to physiology, but I recall that in 2005, as the 24-year-old Tom Boonen dominated the one-day Classsics, there was some discussion over whether he might evolve into a GC rider. It didn't happen, and never looked like happening.

There is more to the sport than winning the Tour, however. What seems more certain is that Sagan is destined to become - if he is not already - a great rider.

What is most impressive about him is his attitude. From his first race as a professional, at the Tour Down Under in 2010, he has seemed fearless. The 19-year old Sagan attacked with Lance Armstrong in that first race, which was enough to catch the eye.

When I saw him a couple of days later I asked him for an interview and he said to meet him in the lobby of the hotel that evening. Then he suffered a heavy crash during the stage. I imagined the interview would be off, but turned up anyway, and so did his directeur sportif, who said that Sagan wanted to do it.

I followed the DS up to Sagan's room, where he was lying on the bed, swathed in bandages. He was beaten up but smiling and he tried as best he could to speak English. He was shy, but determined to do the interview, and eager to know where it would appear.

Twenty minutes later I was about to leave when the day's stage began to be shown on television. Sagan became animated, so I stayed and we watched it together. When it came to the moment of his crash, he leapt forward to the edge of his bed - apparently forgetting his injuries - to re-live the moment when he hit the tarmac.

It was almost as though he relished it, though it might just have been the thrill of seeing himself on TV. I interpreted it as a sign of his youth, his enthusiasm and exuberance - which has also been apparent in his celebrations this week. What none of us realised at the time - or perhaps yet - was the extent of his talent.

Twitter.com/richardmoore73

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