The Elusive Peter Sagan

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Sagan Running Man

It hard to write about Sagan. He’s so good you quickly run out of adjectives. Today’s results don’t even tell the full story, he finished a second clear of the others but in fact had time to look back, sit up, cross himself and then perform a goofy “running man” celebration. It makes you wonder what the other riders think.

That’s Garmin-Sharp’s Robbie Hunter and you suspect his feeling is shared by others. I can understand where they are coming from but his self-expression seems joyous rather than cruel. In this Olympic year the ease of his wins is not unlike Usain Bolt’s success in recent years.

Still, it’s not just the riders, the way he makes it look so easy is frustrating a few TV executives who want a big audience and suspense rather than near-certainty of a Sagan win. But we’ve only had three road stages and many won’t suit Sagan as well. Still, it’s not the first time the Tour has been confronted with effortless success. In recent years Cavendish has been imperial in the sprints. In the past the race has seen the likes of Freddy Maertens – perhaps the most comparable rider to Sagan right now – and of course Eddy Merckx. When faced with the Belgian’s monopolisation of the race Pierre Chany, L’Equipe’s chief writer, had the perfect response:

has anyone wondered whether Molière damaged theatre… Bach harmed music?

He’s not a Slovak, he’s a Fastvak
Sagan was born in January 1990, making him the first rider born in the 90s to win a stage of the Tour de France. He is from Žilina in Slovakia, an industrial town in Slovakia not far from both the Czech Republic and Poland and today dominated by the large factor of Kia, a Korean auto manufacturer. The winters are cold, a reason he took up cyclo-cross. Long a recognised terrain on the ever-changing maps of Europe, Slovakia regained its status as an independent nation in 1993.

He first appeared on the international radar at the 2007 at the European mountain bike championships where he took a bronze medal, despite being one of the youngest riders in the race. But he’d obviously impressed at home in Slovakia to reach this level, indeed he was known for riding in ordinary shoes on flat pedals. In one round of the Slovak MTB cup it appears he borrowed his older sister’s bike and won. He became national junior cross champion and also took wins in international cyclocross races at junior level like the French Cup and the Superprestige.

In 2008 he was still in the juniors and took world cyclo-cross championships when he took silver behind Arnaud Jouffroy, today a pro with FDJ-BigMat. He was also second in the junior Paris-Roubaix, behind Andy Fenn who is today with Omega Pharma- Quickstep after spending most of the last two hours riding solo in the lead. But the highlight of the year was a rainbow jersey and the world champion crown as junior mountain bike champion. By this time he appeared on Specialized’s radar. You can see him toying around on one of their bikes here:

His talent saw him go for a test with the Quickstep team but it didn’t work out, the squad said he wanted too much money. Instead Cannondale came on board and he soon found himself joining the Liquigas squad. It’s similar to Cadel Evans who was riding MTB but thanks to Cannondale got a spot on the Saeco team, sponsored by the US manufacturer.

Sagan Down Under

His debut as a neo-pro was remarkable. In the Tour Down Under a breakaway formed on the hardest stage. Cadel Evans, Alejandro Valverde and Luis Leon Sanchez broke away and were joined by Sagan the neo-pro. To add to the surprise, he was covered in bandages after a fall but this clearly didn’t hold him back. In fact he astonished his team after the crash, he looked like he’d been in a fight with a cheese grater but in broken Italian said “io domani start“, “I starting [the stage] tomorrow”. A win wasn’t far away and he returned to Europe. On a bitterly cold day in Paris-Nice he jumped away with Nico Roche and left the Irishman and Joaquim Rodriguez behind on the finish line. A couple of days later he attacked on a small climb near the finish and won the stage in to Aix-en-Provence and finished the race with the green jersey.

By now he was being called Chuck Norris and Rambo by team mates impressed at his power. Management started to bow too, they hired his older brother Juraj as a rider midway through the season. Juraj (yoo-rye) Sagan had been an amateur in France with the unfortunately named Team Albert Bigot and wasn’t really making a name for himself, although he was still one of Slovakia’s best road racing exports along with Peter Velits. But Peter got Juraj a job.

By 2011 everything continued, except on a higher level. By the end of the year his stage win in the Tour of Switzerland was one my highlights of the season, here’s the video:

If you don’t have time to watch the stage just note won a mountain stage after getting the better of Damiano Cunego. Later in the year he started his first grand tour with the Vuelta and of course he won a stage. And another. And another.

By now you know the story. But we barely know the man. Aged 22 he seems courteous to his team mates and when asked today whether the win was as easy as it looked replied “no win is ever easy“. All the same his confidence and belief is almost unparelled. He apparently discussed his victory salutes with friends before leaving for the Tour. Let’s stop for a minute and think about that – could you imagine hanging with some friends and saying “ok guys, give me some suggestions for victory salutes“.

What next?
There’s probably no answer yet. In the short term he might have his eye on tomorrow’s stage, certainly he’ll want points to build on his green jersey. Slightly longer range he’ll want to make it to Paris and of course there’s the Olympic Games and upsetting Mark Cavendish in front of The Queen in Buckingham Palace. Has he planned a victory salute?

Longer term there’s talk of a grand tour success, especially if he can reshape his body a bit. He’s chunky and this suits him for the classics but if he could slim down – in profile, not body fat since he’s lean – then he could climb better and become even more versatile. But this is speculation and for now, why on earth should he change anything?

Summary
At times he seems as elusive to writers as he does to riders, able to drop the bunch in an uphill sprint whilst being hard to understand and describe. The more he wins, the more the superlatives run out. He assassinates adjectives and shreds the thesaurus for breakfast.

What next? He has plenty of time to chose, just like he picks his victory salute.

Latvian Rider July 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm

When you win I think you get to salute any way you like as long as it’s not disrespecting the other competitors. I don’t think his salutes have been disrespectful they have been entertaining and brought a sense of childlike joy to the end of very stressful days. No one likes getting beat but don’t take it personally Mr. Hunter, I certainly don’t think Peter was thinking of you when he crossed the finish line. He was likely thinking “Oh so and so is going to love this salute, haha! Holy Shit I just won another stage in the TDF”

Eddy July 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

No mention of his impressive victories in the Amgen Tour of California?

The Inner Ring July 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm

I think we all know about them. It’s in recent memory, I wanted to fish for more in the past.

Evan July 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

go back to 2010, he won the queen stage at the age of 20.

Samuel July 3, 2012 at 7:57 pm

The reaction to Sagan’s celebrations is an interesting one. Without exception, cycling journos are falling over themselves to laud him to the skies and defend him against any adverse reaction on the part of others. There is no doubt that he is a hell of a phenomenon – however, whilst agreeing with his incredible talent, some fans as well as some riders are being turned off by his celebrations. To many they are coming across as seeming to take the mickey out all of the riders behind him. No doubt some including those same journalists will dismiss riders’ adverse reactions as just unhappiness at being beaten, but I think its more complex than that. Perhaps what makes this situation so different from other sports such as athletics is the amount of suffering in this sport, and the issue of what has just happened in this specific race. Riders such as Siutsou and Rojas out of the Tour with broken fibia and collar bone, Danielson not looking good, and plenty of other riders nursing a lot of injuries tonight. Sagan’s not to have known this as he began his performance, but maybe a little word to tone it down a tad would do wonders for allowing everyone to just celebrate his talent.

JimW July 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

He’s a kid winning on the biggest stage in the world. He is not disrespectful and does not taunt the competitors with his salutes. Should he mope over the line because the rest of the bunch had a bad day?
NO!
Racing is suffering and they all know it when they toe the line.
If you put that much space between yourself and the bunch a running man would be in order, no?
YES!

Samuel July 3, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Hey mate, just a view, trying to get my head around why he’s polarizing people – just like you’re entitled to your own view

JimW July 3, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I’m not mad, just excited.

The Inner Ring July 3, 2012 at 8:56 pm

Thanks, I can see what you mean. It is not what he does but how others interpret it that creates the reaction.

Goods July 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Exactly – the difference between intention and impact

Roadie61 July 3, 2012 at 9:23 pm

@Samuel: I agree with your analysis of this unique situation.

Before I go on, great work by Szmyd and Basso to deliver Sagan safely to set up the win!

It’s fantastic for Liquigas to have this “weapon” called Peter Sagan! Who wouldn’t be pumped about his seemingly endless achievements? But coming from a place of sportsmanship, I agree that Sagan should be taught to tone it down a bit. I worry that he’ll be viewed as arrogant and over-confident with his “dances” and salutes just before crossing the line. Yes, he’s young and I think it’s funny that he and his mates think up victory salutes, but out of respect for the whole peleton, the fans, journalists, etc., maybe less flashy salutes, and AFTER the finish line is crossed:)

I doubt Sagan would intend to offend anyone as he seems so happy-go-lucky all the time.
To be so young and have this much talent and success already is something he may not even fully appreciate yet.

“The Tourminator” is painted on Sagan’s bike today…so he’s a fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s movies. For me, I am happy that Ahnold is no longer the governor of “Caulifornia.” :-)

Michael July 5, 2012 at 9:19 pm

This is cycling not the No FUN League.

I don’t know where you people live, but where I am you can celebrate any way you like. You kan jump of your bike and jump over the finishing line on one leg. You just have to good enough.

Look in atletics. Every body celebrates by running ewith their countrys flag. I football (soccer) people jump and dance like crazy, stripping of their jersey (Balotelli in EC). A Norweigian cross country skier once turned at finish backwoods.

So let the winner celebrates as he want. We dont want the No FUN League in cycling. It like taking fighting out of Hockey. No more fun.

I personally hope Sagan make even more crazy celebrations.

rothbags July 4, 2012 at 12:35 am

He is taking the mickey… But he deserves to. Rarely is a talent this good left unrestrained and god are we enjoying it!

Big Mikey July 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Seriously people, if I won that stage that he won yesterday, I’d strip naked and pop wheelies for the rest of the afternoon. He can do what he wants, he’s earned it.
If he was from your country, he’d be entertaining, but he’s not, so he’s disrespectful.

El Gato de la Cala July 3, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Salute of today was tribute to Forrest Gump according to interview with Ned Boulting on ITV4 after the stage, a character Sagan and his friends loves. No deeper thoughts about that. Btw – who is Robbie Hunter?

The Inner Ring July 3, 2012 at 8:54 pm

He’s almost famous for his angry tweets, today’s was quite moderate.

peter-svk July 3, 2012 at 8:09 pm

I appreciate your headline : He’s not a Slovak, he’s a Fastvak :-) (a very smart piece)

savory July 3, 2012 at 8:14 pm

I for one don’t mind the salutes, but I think he just needs to wait until he crosses the line for a goofy salute. That’s probably where the other riders feel he is rubbing it in their faces.

peter-svk July 3, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Forget his gestures. You can hardly blame him.
I come from the same town…Zilina. He is a young guy and a modest person. He makes it only for fun and for his friends. Take it easy…

Ross Hallard July 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

He’s not even wearing any eyewear on that Tour de Suisse descent. He’s a madman.

Scott July 3, 2012 at 8:38 pm

*Technically* 1990 is the last year of the 1980s even if it’s recognized as the 90s…! Such a super impressive and classy racer. It’ll be the decade of Sagan, I think.

DopeToWin July 3, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Who the **** is Robbie Hunter?? LOL What a douchebag Hunter is. Pretty soon Hunter will STFU when he realises just how great Sagan is for this sport… he’s a joy to watch.

The Inner Ring July 3, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Easy, you cannot judge a man by one tweet.

(otherwise I’ll judge you by your message and press the spam button)

DopeToWin July 3, 2012 at 10:09 pm

Oops OK, point taken. (I was just sayin’.) :D

Roadie61 July 3, 2012 at 10:24 pm

@DopeToWin: I don’t appreciate your language and I doubt I’m alone on that. Hunter is a well-respected “senior statesman” in the peleton and people likely pay attention to his tweets.

How ’bout we judge you by your name, “DopeToWin?” Is that okay with you?

And no one is questioning that Sagan is phenomenal for our sport, certainly not Robbie Hunter nor anyone else who cares about the future of cycling.

DopeToWin July 3, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hunter is “well-respected”? I think that depends on who you ask. The Inner Ring himself states up there ^ that Hunter is “almost famous for his angry tweets, today’s was quite moderate” and judging by some of these tweets (and not just “by one tweet”) he seems to be a bit too puffed-up on self-importance for my liking – a bit like David Millar.

As for my ‘name’, it was inspired by the realities of professional cycling. It’s fine to judge me by this name. Just so you know: these guys are not riding for the thrill of victory; they ride for money. It’s PROFESSIONAL sport. In order to earn big money they have to be competitve, and in order to be competitive I’m afraid they have to… you know the rest. I think Big Tex summed it up perfectly when he famously described doping as a “necessary evil”.

Roadie61 July 4, 2012 at 1:51 am

Robbie Hunter is well-respected for his longevity in our sport and his commitment to clean riding, and yes, he’s very outspoken and critical of those who cheat. Maybe you see that as him being too “puffed-up on self-importance,” but I don’t think his tweets/comments are intended to be self-serving, I think he cares about the sport being clean and riders respecting the sport.

Yeah, the riders ride for money, but don’t think they’re not also riding for the “thrill of victory.”
Ask most any rider in the pro peloton if cycling is “just a job” to him. I don’t think he’ll tell you that he rides just to pay the mortgage or the rent, he also rides for the thrill of what might be!
The thrill of donning the yellow jersey or any of the jerseys, and so much more…

Nobody that has talent enough to be riding in the TdF (or any WT race) is doing it for the money alone. The domestiques celebrate a teammate’s victory in a stage or the overall, as there is no “I” in team. Why do you think Cav and Evans (as examples) always credit their teammates for getting them to victory? Profound camaraderie with teammates, my friend. When one wins they all win:-)

Your references to the necessity of doping to stay competitive and win are slowly becoming old-school thinking in 2012, I believe. Yes, a small minority likely still cheat, but I think the peloton is cleaner than it’s been in decades. Cadel Evans is your perfect example. He’s competitive, always, and has never been associated with any doping scandal.

And look at the other GC potentials and stage favorites: Wiggins, Sagan, Cavendish, Gilbert, Hesjedal, Tejay Van Garderen, E. Boasson Hagen, Cancellara, etc. –> clean. Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin) and Bob Stapleton (HTC-Highroad), among others, are champions of the philosophy of a clean peloton.

“Big Tex” is in a whole lotta hot water with the USADA investigation/charges. His beliefs and actions (as I see coming out) are antithetical to riders like Cadel Evans. They don’t come more competitive than Cadel and he’s squeaky clean.

DopeToWin July 4, 2012 at 4:29 am

You’re right about my comments about doping, sort of. I should have used the word “majority”, i.e. the majority of the pro peloton are doping, IMO. There are of course clean riders, e.g. Moncoutie.

The “cheat” word gets me though. You see, within the sport, doping is not seen as “cheating”. It’s the getting caught bit that’s the problem – this is what turns fans/media/sponsors against the sport. The “cheats” are often called “stupid” by some riders & team staff etc, not for doping but for getting caught, i.e. being lax in their “preperation”, e.g Ricco.

This “clean philosophy” within certain teams you mention is I’m afraid to say just PR. Or, more accurately, BS. It’s designed so as to keep & attract sponsors and to insulate you from the cold truths of professional cycling. It seems you have been well ‘n’ truly “had” by this and I genuinely pity you.

Regarding the riders you have listed above, I am not going to dignify those laughably naive comments with much of a response. With respect, you’re too far “gone”, deluded. I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Eduardo July 4, 2012 at 8:50 am

“Roadie61″ your assumption that the riders you mention are “clean” is exactly that – an assumption. Remember, when you assume, you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ & ‘me’ (well, not me, or anyone else that is willing to embrace reality). I choose to live the real world and accept that they are doping, just like in all the other major sports that are televised. Do you not realize that the biological passport is designed so that the team doctors know how much to tweak the blood and not get caught?

Peter Sagan will have his “Ricco” moment – maybe not this year, but if/ when they ever have a test that actually works ( Armstrong’s 500+ passed tests should be proof enough that the testing is a joke).

Big Mikey July 4, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Unless one has personal knowledge of a rider’s practices, and I’m sure you don’t, one has no foundation for knowing a rider’s clean.

Hamilton, Millar, Lance, Heras, Vaughters, Andreu……all these guys would have been on your “must be clean” list. And they all doped.

And lots of pro’s you think are clean are still doping.

Michael July 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm

Roadie61

How many cycle races have you ever followed behind the robes. If you really believe in clean riders i would like to tell you a litle story.

A few years back I was covering the belgieum springclassics and I was especially following a very well nown team. I had an agreement to follow them on a trainingtrip on the route for the Tour of Flanderes.

I was 10 minutes late for the start at their hotel (Not vey professional) so I only saw the back of the teamcars speeding away. OK I turned my car and made my best Dale Erhard Junior impersionation and caught the car.

They didn’t know my car as it was a rental and they didn’t pay any attention to me being on their tale. We raced on small belgium countryroads in highspeed, and I thought that we were on our way to the trainning session. This being the part of the country where the Flanderes was raced.

To my big surprise all 3 teamcars stoped at a very nice ok lets says very large mansion and what should I do. OK i stopped went out of my car an presented myself.

A very surprised sportsdirector welcomed me and told my still a bit shaken that they would start the traningsession in 30 min and that we could meet at the Koppenberg.

I of course said OK but I also asked what they where doing here. He look bewildered at me and answered. “Ooh It’s just the quartely bloodtest for the UCI.”

Right do I look like an idiot. Of course you bring all 9 riders for the Flanderes to the doctor for at bloodtest 2 days before the race, at 10 am in full racing equipment.

Well we did the traning session and talk over coffee some hours later. Not one word about the doctors appointment was mentioned.

By the way – The team that hadn’t had a result all spring raced their best classic ever that year.

And now the story ends, No i doesn’t. That same night i couldnøt sleep and went downstairs to have a smoke. It was 3 am and som mekanic from another pro tour team staying at the hotel, pick up at car to drive away to dispose of a McDOnalds paperbag.

Doping ? No way just garbage. Yea ofcourse there was no less than 3 garbagecans i plain site from the hotel. And yes that team won come sunday, but I’t could be a fluke.

Rocko July 3, 2012 at 8:59 pm

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with his way of celebrating victories, on the contrary its pretty funny that a pretty dull; uncharismatic guy like Sagan comes up with such a weird/funny celebration…. it could become his trademark, and could make him extra money doing adds etc…. maybe in a couple of decades we call a move like that a ‘Sagan’.

And Hunter complaining about Sagan is like Luxembourg telling the Spanish football team that their tiki taki football is arrogant; c’mon Robert Hunter ….

Impressive rider, Zabel compared him with Jalabert the other day, but he could end up winning 5x times more then Jalabert. I always find his wins pretty amazing and impresssive, so I don’t get the boring tag, but well some people also find Spain winning in footie, and Bolt winning the 100m boring, each to their own I guess.

Baky July 3, 2012 at 9:10 pm

We all love him and I think he is so hungry for the wins that he can even overcome thefatigue.

You forgot to mention and put the video of his no hand wheelie in the race.

Slovakia in 1st and 3rd! Hell yeah!

diamondjim July 4, 2012 at 2:03 am

How about a wheelie as a victory salute!

Mr Bad Example July 4, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I think Robbie McEwen already used that one.

marek July 3, 2012 at 9:25 pm

Sagan is young at 22, enjoying the season of his life and having fun doing it. Absolutely nothing wrong with that. It comes across as joyous on his part. When he loses he’s dark and gloomy, when wins happy as Larry :) Although I can see how it could frustrate those behind him.

OxChris July 3, 2012 at 9:33 pm

I don’t think there’s much more to be said about whether Sagan’s victory salutes are disrespectful/cocky etc. It seems to be one of those things that people have an instinctive reaction to and neither side can see it from the perspective of the other. So putting those issues aside for the moment, if I was Sagan’s sponsors I would be having a quiet word with him to do things a little more conventionally. The bread and butter of cycling based advertising is the exhausted but triumphant cyclist with his hands in the air, winning a brilliant victory over his opponents and the road (of course all thanks to his bike/wheels/shoes/gears/and, err, supplier of liquid gas…). Sagan is one of the hottest young properties in cycling so of course he’s very marketable but what his sponsors are left with is a photo of him looking like a bit of a twit.

marek July 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Any less than Contador’s el pistolero or Cavendish calling home? Here’s Robby McEwen doing something similar – quoted as “running man”.
http://cdn.media.cyclingnews.com/2010/04/30/2/bettiniphoto_0008768_1_full_600.jpg

And a few more…
http://cozybeehive.blogspot.com/2007/12/lore-of-victory-salute.html

OxChris July 3, 2012 at 10:47 pm

And how often have those photos made it into ads? My point was simply that Sagan isn’t providing the material for ads, and if I was a sponsor I wouldn’t be happy. I don’t have anything to add to the debate as to whether his victory salutes are good or bad in and of themselves.

The Inner Ring July 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Don’t worry, he does the classic salute as part of the routine too. The photo library I use has many photos of him from today doing a range of salutes, including the more classic one fist in the air at the end.

Rooto July 3, 2012 at 11:12 pm

Advertisers just have to choose their snapshot. 2 seconds after the running man, he was punching the air with both arms. Very traditional.

I feel (and this is not aimed at you OxChris), that many of the complaints are recognizable as similar to those made about Cav in the early days. Cocky, brash, lacking respect, etc. This guy, like Cavendish, is going to win so often we should be glad of some variety!

Ace July 4, 2012 at 4:15 am

This does remind me of Robby McEwan’s slow motion running man, which he talked over with his mates before that stage…It’s pretty good company for young Mr. Sagan…Keep having fun.

clc July 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm

It’s amazing to me that he has the energy to perform elaborate premeditated celebrations whist his competitors finish behind him too exhausted to raise a hand.
He’s a kid. I was a screw-off when I was 22. I’m guessing he will tone it down as time goes on.
I’ll take a win by the kid over Cavendish any day.

Marcellus July 3, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Yes its almost unbelievable that Sagan has so much energy left compared to his competitors. Uh oh.

MrTapir July 4, 2012 at 10:05 am

BUt they all look like that when they win, and when they come second. If EBH won and Sagan came second EBH would have his hands in the air while Sagan would be slumped over his bars. Its the elation of winning that gives the extra appearance of strength. I dont think there needs to be any innuendo of doping yet.

Parker July 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

1. If you have ever won a cycling race, its pretty easy to understand why he does it. Its exhilarating to win your local crit, let alone a stage in the TOUR DE FRANCE. Hard to blame a 21 year-old kid for expressing some joy.

2. These celebrations are nowhere near as cocky and ridiculous as they are in every other team sport. And those celebrations happen multiple times a game/match. Think of touchdowns, goals, slam dunks…

theo paul July 3, 2012 at 10:52 pm

good article.
un freakin believable.

xyz July 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

Another great write, and thank you for this:
“has anyone wondered whether Molière damaged theatre… Bach harmed music?“
It is a joy to see people do what they do best, be it Sagan, Cancellara, Chavendish or Contador, and there will all ways be some who will try to talk the big accomplishments down by talking about the rider being too cocky, doping or having a motor in the bike.
Me, I just love to see the maestros at work, they put joy in our lives, and I can’t wait to see the next Sagan victory salute.

John B July 3, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Tonight at Sporza, the great Belgian tv channel, it was said by Ducrot (commentary with Dutch tv) said that Sagan is not only a champion in cycling but also in drinking beer. Lots of beer. This was confirmed by the brother of Jelle Vanendert who was in Curacao during the local Amstel Gold Race where he drunk everybody under the table ( dont know if this is a proper Englisg expression). Great guy.

Also today in an interview with Sporza, Sagan said that he prefers to win a Classic instead of the TdF. His favourite classic is Milans San Remo and second best Flanders. Maybe in the very far future he will try fighting a GC, but for now it is all about the Classics and stage wins (and of course the green jersey).

And also in Sporza, you saw a clip with Sagan and his father. Before the start of todays stage, his father put a small cross on his forehead for safekeeping. Was really adorable.

Kemelberg July 3, 2012 at 11:02 pm

I was always bemused by the hand pistol gesture of Contador when finishing and putting time into rivals. It is meant to ‘get under the skin’ or a light form of psychological ‘intimidation’ of other riders , but altogether a very calculated move/gesture.
Sagan seems more spontaneous about it, today it all seems perfectly timed, he just has time to look back and realise how much distance he gained, sits up and celebrates , all of this in less than 8 or 9 seconds. Just looks very honest and with real emotion to me, a joy to watch.

Redeye July 3, 2012 at 11:03 pm

He’s a young slightly cocky kid having the time of his life winning stages in the biggest bike race in the world. What’s not to like?

For me the most impressive thing about him isn’t just his sheer power in winning, it’s how smart he is tactically to get in a position to even contest the win, especially when you consider his background is in MTB and cyclo-cross. Sure, he’s had some help from some big name team mates in the last few km which speaks volumes in itself, but he got himself in position and did exactly what everybody expected him to which is sometimes the hardest way to win.

Bundle July 3, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Today’s conclusions:
1) First and foremost (and not yet analyzed here): the jury’s decision to give the same time to the whole peloton, despite the significant and varied gaps at the finish. Probably not impossible under the rules, but surely not more lawful than leaving the gaps as they were, because they were to a larger extent due not to the crash (except for those who really fell off their bike) but to the differences in strength (suh as the gap between Klöden, 13th, and Kiserlovski, 14th) and also to some soft-pedalling by some “smart” riders who seemed to take for granted that once a crash had taken place, nothing was effective anymore and they could (automatically) sit up, which is not incredibly fair play.
2) Sagan, from now on, is the only favourite for any race like today’s stage or Sunday’s (Gilbert and Valverde seem unable to even bring themselves to be present in the sprint). Any team helping Liquigas control those races will, from now on, be convicted of stupidity, and subject to general scorn and spite.
3) The lad’s celebration is fun, pretty harmless, and good for “le spectacle”. Much better than Samuel Sánchez’s rage last year in Luz-Ardiden, if you ask me.

Chrisman July 3, 2012 at 11:10 pm

Not people moaning about over-celebrating again. Bloody Puritans. I think Cav and Sagan should choreograph a double dance-off special down the Champs-Elysse. In all seriousness, when the adrenaline is flowing, you’ll do all types of stuff. When you produce performances that brilliant and exciting, you’re allowed a bit of license to showboat. Every sport needs its extravagant showmen. When you win, it’s all good and we’ll join you in the revelry. When you don’t you, become a showpony, and that’s not good.

diamondjim July 4, 2012 at 2:08 am

“I think Cav and Sagan should choreograph a double dance-off special down the Champs-Elysse”

Where’s the ‘Like’ button?! :-)

GeeTee July 4, 2012 at 7:47 am

Now that Cav is so far behind in the green jersey points – I’d be very surprised to see him in Paris. Abandonment looms …

Big Mikey July 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

“double dance-off”
+1

Well spoken.

Chrisman July 3, 2012 at 11:19 pm

“And Hunter complaining about Sagan is like Luxembourg telling the Spanish football team that their tiki taki football is arrogant”

“Laugh Out Loud funny”
chrisman

Adam July 3, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Sagan is exactly what pro cycling needs right now, a rider with character and style! His victory celebration today made me laugh and I can’t wait to see what he does next time. On a GC note, how about Ryder Hesjedal and his performance so far. He’s the only guy on Garmin with any real potential to challenge Wiggo and Evans right now. The mountain stages are going to be siiiiiicccccckkkkkkkk!

Andy July 3, 2012 at 11:44 pm

In my opinion these victory salutes ( if that’s what they are) are foolish and self-agrandizing. Just as they are in football, track, or any other sporting competition. I consider it poor sportsmanship, that It diminishes the racer, and is disrespectful of both the competitors, and ones own teammates who made the victory possible. Sadly, such displays are becoming the norm; not only accepted, but seemingly valued by the press and the fans. Actually planning and rehearsing “celebrations?” both nauseating and pathetic, in my opinion. When I played rugby back in the day, we had a way of administering lessons to such hot dogs on the field. People shoulnt need do this…especially supremely talented athletes like Sagan.

Ross July 4, 2012 at 3:03 am

Let’s not expect him to behave as if he’s the result of a stiff upper-lip Anglo-Saxon background. He’s from a European culture where winning celebrations are, I suspect, far more exuberant than us emotionally-strangled Anglo’s.

Salsiccia July 4, 2012 at 10:55 am

Sorry, but I have to disagree with the opinon that the celebrations are poor sportsmanship. It is the joy and exuberance of winning on the world’s biggest stage. He’s enjoying his wins, and who can blame him?
And in what way are they disrespectful? He’s not gesticulating at riders or anything like that. And as for his team feeling disrespected, if he’s planning the celebrations with them they probably don’t feel that way. In fact, I bet they’re thrilled to have someone with the energy and excitement he brings on their team, notwithstanding the wins he is bringing.
I doubt there’s more than a handful of riders that have a problem with the celebrations; but if other riders don’t like his celebrations, then the best thing they can do is stop him winning.

Mick July 5, 2012 at 12:31 am

“administering lessons “…wow, admitting to dirty tactics because of what…(?) . So, are we to take this you would be the rider who would crash Sagan to teach him some respect (?) … I fail to see Sagan’s gestures as being disrespectful or arrogant… Sagan’s victory salute made my day better, your comment didn’t. Your comments are as distasteful to me as Sagan’s actions seem to strike you.

Brian July 6, 2012 at 4:00 am

Haha, you think someone needs to teach Sagan a lesson? I think he’s been teaching the entire pro peloton lessons all year long. He’s whipping their butts and some people don’t like it…but if they can’t beat him, then they need to work harder, not whine.

To quote the great Ricky Bobby: “Winners get to do what they want”.

ave July 3, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I needed this guy badly in the Tour.
I’m so happy when he wins. It’s just crazy how good he is.

In Suisse he pulled one foot out of the pedal to avoid crashing with 200m to go and won.
In California he overtook everybody in a corner and won by a mile.
Amazing skills, amazing power.

He still needs to learn a few things. Like a better English. But I’m a big fan!

Jeff July 4, 2012 at 12:26 am

I saw Sagan’s potential — and unbridled exuberance — during the Tour of California in 2010. After sprinting uphill at elevation for the win during the stage at Big Bear Lake, he coasted 10 meters, dismounted and held his bike over his head before sitting down against the barrier to catch his breath. While his soigneur provided water and a fresh towel, I extended a closed hand over the fence to Sagan. He gave me a fist pump. I’d hardly characterize him as “chunky” — but I’d say his legs and arms are more muscular than a typical Grand Tour specialist. Sagan in person is much leaner than he appears on TV, which gives us an idea of how positively emaciated Bradley Wiggins must be up close before the naked eye.

SilverSurfer8 July 4, 2012 at 12:32 am

To me, his celebrations are just pure JOY. And funny! He says he does it for the fans, to put on a show. Good for him! Flaunt it while you got it! As for his competitors not liking it, too bad! It’s a bike race, not popularity contest. Success is fleeting-drink it up!

Michal July 4, 2012 at 12:57 am

His bike handling skills are amazing. In prologue it saved him from falling in corner too. It was mentioned here yesterday that in stage 2 he “let” Cav and so on take Greipels wheel in final sprint. Go Peter!

L_Islandais July 4, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Not to mention his no handed wheelie on Angliru in last year’s Vuelta while all others were trying to survive!

http://forum.cyclingnews.com/showthread.php?t=15205

Chromatic Dramatic July 4, 2012 at 12:59 am

I’m not fazed by the salutes, but I understand where the riders are coming from. When someone wins ALL the time it must be depressing.

What I like about Sagan is how he can win… Almost any type of finish and he has the ability to be in the mix, and seemingly without needing to be delivered to the line by a lead out train. Kind of like watching Chris Hoy on the track. You know he’s going to win somehow, but never sure until it all unfolds.

CGradeCyclist July 4, 2012 at 1:30 am

What an amazing talent!! I love the youthful exuberance when he wins – clearly he is enjoying himself, which is as it should be.

As I saw quoted elsewhere, “if other riders don’t want to see the victory salutes, they know what they have to do…” :)

Slim Jim July 4, 2012 at 1:38 am

Lets be honest; people are taking issue with this because they think he’s a cocky young upstart. Neither of his salutes are any worst (or better) than the ones in this gallery.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/cyclings-best-worst-and-strangest-victory-salutes

mB July 4, 2012 at 2:23 am

I predict it will become a verb in no time in the peloton, as in “Man, I got saganed again!”

Ross July 4, 2012 at 2:50 am

He’s 22 and still a kid and his winning salutes are just an expression of joy and excitement. I don’t think he’s being disrespectful, or arrogant. Just exuberant. I think people are over-analysing his reaction to winning, or just plain jealous.

Tyler July 4, 2012 at 3:19 am

Spot on, as usual. And great discussion to follow. Well done!

Ian July 4, 2012 at 3:21 am

He’s not cocky, he’s good!

Here’s to hoping he gets takes a stage with enough time to coaster-wheelie the finish line.

Mb July 4, 2012 at 3:36 am

I like champions that are charismatic, bordering show-off.

Peter Sagan wins and shows that he’s happy to win: that’s great because that’s the way it is.
Who would do this sport, or any sport if it didn’t provide a certain sense of augmented joy when winning??

Nothing is more boring than champions like Cadel Evans, a man that seems to be totally devoid of charisma, who doesn’t bother even showing a tiny sign of joy when crossing the line first.

Champions are great because they are greater, bigger than life, as they manage to win some extremely difficult sporting challenges by taking their body to high levels.
Their personality should go with their achievements!
Go Peter Go!

Touriste-Routier July 4, 2012 at 4:47 am

He has tremendous talent and the ability to win in any number of circumstances, in this regard he has tremendous class.

However the victory salutes show a lack of class. Granted he is only 22, and they may not be ill intended, disrespectful, or even cocky, but the effect can be easily interpreted as otherwise. No he isn’t the only one; Cav and McEwan, among others have had plenty of less than elegant moments of celebration too, but that doesn’t make it right or acceptable. However, if you have time to sit up, look back and run, dance, or whatever, it can be akin to rubbing it in your competitors faces. He has a long career in front of him; it is too soon to make enemies, especially through behavior that can be interpreted as mocking.

Classic victory salutes may not be that exciting, but the salute needn’t be, the performance is. And they showcase the sponsors far better than anything else (pointing at them on your jersey is equally lacking in class).

Josh July 4, 2012 at 5:11 am

My personal memory of Sagan is last year’s Philadelphia race. I worked my way to the finish line expecting him to easily win the field sprint, but Sagain was pipped at the line by Garmin’s Alex Rasmussmen. It just goes to show that form matters for so much. I love the attitude Sagain brings to the Tour especially since success can be fleeting. As Gilbert will certainly agree, and Sagan learned (at the very least) last year in Philadelphia, success can be fleeting. Might as well enjoy it.

Vera July 4, 2012 at 5:31 am

Finally got around to watching the stage tonight. What an impressive win by Sagan! The “Funky Chicken/Forest Gump” thing only strikes me as a confident kid having fun. Celebrations are an issue in American football as well, and taking a quote from that sport, my take is this, ” If you don’t want him to celebrate, keep him out of the end zone.”

RooBay July 4, 2012 at 6:09 am

Cycling is in need of more characters and colour. Sagan should be applauded for his new school saluting.

Cat4Fodder July 4, 2012 at 6:13 am

It will be interesting to see if he can transform into a GT contender. I do wonder whether his bulk (i.e.- muscles mass) is his advantage on short power climbs (if anything, the rider who he seems to ride the most similar to is Ivan Rodriguez, another guy who is essentially a specialist on punchy climbs).

Some guys are just naturally bulky (Hushvod, Cancellara, Boonen), while others are rail thin (Schlecks, Contador).

I hope he can transform, as unfortunately, a solid Classics rider is all fine, but the sport’s popularity requires the best rider be a TdF contender.

Holly July 4, 2012 at 8:01 am

I don’t think necessarily that the best rider needs or has to be a GT contender. The fans don’t require everyone to be a GT contender, some people prefer classics riders more than GT riders. Being the best in subjective anyway, is Evans, for example, a better rider than say Cancellara or Boonen? I would say no, it’s very difficult to rank them, they are all great riders, with different builds and different talents.

Saying that, it we’ll have to wait and see what Sagan’s full ability is, who knows maybe he will become at GT contender. Seeing if he does or doesn’t will be entertaining to watch!

Nick July 4, 2012 at 6:40 am

He’s 22, his celebrations are great for the sport. If the UCI clamped down on celebrations a la NFL it wouldn’t surprise me given the UCI’s history of overbearing rules but would be to the detriment of the sport.

Once he’s notched up more wins though he’ll tame it down but for the moment there’s no reason not to let him go nuts.

Roadie61 July 4, 2012 at 6:41 am

Okay, the masses have persuaded me to change my mind. I really like what most have written here.
I like that the majority of you really enjoy Sagan’s celebrations. The truth is, I really do, too.
What I blogged earlier was in response to what Robbie Hunter tweeted, thinking that he must also know others in the peloton that feel the same way. I don’t know, because I haven’t read about other pros in the peloton and whether they like or dislike his celebrations.

I also think I’ve been influenced by current rules in NFL football. For many years, when a touchdown was scored, a player could spike the football in the end zone, throw it over the goal post, do a groovin’ dance in the end zone or whatever moved the player at that moment. As the years passed the “celebrations” became more radical and sometimes offensive to the opponent’s fans.

The most absurd example that comes to mind [for anyone who was watching American football on September 24, 2000: SF 49ers vs Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium] was 49er Terrell Owens’ actions following a touchdown. Watch the video of the ridiculousness of what transpired after his touchdown. Do I condone this juvenile behavior? NO. Is this good sportsmanship, NO.

But in no way does the football fiasco compare to the joyful victory salutes we get from a youthful, stoked Sagan! I’m merely contrasting bad sportsmanship with refreshingly innocent salutes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-nxdzgQH8U

I think it was shortly after this that a rule change came down, limiting what athletes could do to “celebrate” a touchdown. Owens ruined a good thing for all with his constant show-boating. His notoriously bad attitude soured the NFL. The reins tightened and never loosened again. No more spiking the ball, no more dances in the end-zone, no more spontaneous celebrations :-(

You all are spot on! We should enjoy his dances, his wheelies, his “Forrest Gump running man” and celebrate whatever he dishes out for as long as he’s got it :-)

Vera July 4, 2012 at 10:35 am

Yeah. While some of the NFL players went too far, and the celebrations got too overdone (ie: Joe Horne and the notorious cell phone in the end zone deal), I do think the league went a little No Fun League by banning them outright, and I’d hate to see pro cycling do the same.

namor July 4, 2012 at 6:53 am

his celebrations show pure joy of racing and wining.He races to win not to make friends.His respect is where it needs to be,before and after the race not during a battle!

Brian July 6, 2012 at 4:13 am

Is it not enough that he’s been wiping the floor all year long? Should the UCI award or deduct time based on the “taste” and “class” of the winning rider? Maybe there should be a bowtie jersey for the most classy rider?

I also play golf and I can’t stand the judgemental, elitist, conformist attitudes that are often found in that sport. You can’t play at all if you don’t fit in at some places. Cycling is great because anyone show up, and if you’re fastest, that’s all that matters.

Brian July 6, 2012 at 4:16 am

@ namor – My last comment wasn’t directed at you. Clicked the wrong reply link.

GeeTee July 4, 2012 at 7:53 am

Peter’s celebrations are not the story from stage 3. Has anybody noticed the footage from the crash at the finish? Wiggins was looking likely to drop some seconds to Evans – he was safely past the crash, but then stopped and “checked” his rear wheel.

Soft.

Alan July 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm

I think you’ll find if you watch more carefully – in trying to avoid the crash, he dropped his chain and had to put it back on.

I agree it might have been interesting without the crash as Wiggins did seem rather far back and possibly would have lost some seconds.

Big Mikey July 4, 2012 at 6:37 pm

You’re taking you’re life in your hands criticizing wiggins on this board. I’m pretty sure he’s already been awarded the tour by most posters.

Saw some inside commentary today that wiggo is wound very tightly at the moment, yelling at teammates, etc.

bluesky July 4, 2012 at 8:59 am

in a tour where theres too much predictability and control from the race radios/directors/peloton etc its excellent to see someone with a pair of kahunas !!! u enjoy yourself son……i for one want to see more …………

ulty July 4, 2012 at 9:21 am

Let’s have some joy in the world and no piss on his parade. I for one am loving watching his breakout performance to the world at the TdF. We who follow cycling closely all knew was coming but Liquigas made us wait for, maybe wisely I guess.

No one was giving Gilbert crap on his salutes last year when he mopped the floor with everyone (Fleche Wallone celebration comes to mind as well as pointing to the 1 placard coming to the line when he won Lombardia in 2010). I loved all of his too.

Cycling’s cognocenti can be a bunch of crumudegons sometimes……(god I really hope he’s not &*p#d).

el tejan July 4, 2012 at 11:32 am

My all time favorite victory salute … http://www.pezcyclingnews.com/photos/races06/cross06/sp07-finger.jpg

I’ll be super impressed if Sagan can pull off a “superman” pose.

Stephen_M July 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Sagan is a joy to watch riding the bike – he exudes class and talent. He looks good in a time trial, climbing and has a great sprint – they’re not much else to riding a bike… I could watch that Tour of Switzerland finish all day and still enjoy it.

I keep waiting for the Sean Kelly comparisons from comentators, but they’re not coming? Maybe Kelly’s style was little less relaxed on the bike, but the ability to win anywhere, all season looks pretty much the same?

Guadzilla July 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm

Velocentric summed it up best:

“You guy remember what it was like to be 22 and beat the best in the world? No? Shut up then.”

Let him celebrate – it’s innocent fun. Personally, I find Cancellara’s incessant whining every time he is out-strategized (Even Superman can be beaten if everyone teams up against him, everyone knows that the strongest rider did not win, etc) to be worse examples of sportsmanship.

Stephen_M July 4, 2012 at 1:21 pm

I agree on both counts! Well said.

Simon Fielder July 4, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Without having the time to read all comments here (apologies if I repeat what has already been said) I think that Sagan should tone it down a little. Two reasons, this is not football it’s cycling, a gentlemens sport. Secondly as he can’t speak brilliant English at this stage (not a criticism but observsation) it leaves a rather big whole for interpretation. If like Cavendish for example he came across as humble and thankful to his team mates then I think the victory salute could be taken in a better context.

Steve July 4, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Great for the kid, perhaps some of his peloton mates are a tad embarrassed, thus they criticize.

He will grow as a rider and tone it down as he assimilates and develops as professional. His team directors will coach him, as well as influential senior class teammates.

It will be fun to see how he matures physically and what disciplines he will excels in going forward. He appears to me to be a Gilbert type rider.

Lets all see how he does after 2.5 weeks into the tour, I think that his age and stamina will be tested as the Amgen ( a few semi flat days) is no comparison to Tdf. Will he be towing liquidgas GC up the steepest Cols?

ben July 4, 2012 at 7:11 pm

A personal favorite:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2myPS77nKE&feature=player_detailpage#t=242s

Tour of California 2010, Stage 6 – his fifth victory of the year and he had a salute to match. The plunger falls on a stack of dynamite and BOOM up goes five fingers.

Tam July 4, 2012 at 8:54 pm

The hilariously eloquent David Millar summed it best on http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/tour-shorts-are-sagans-salutes-supercilious;
“Totally for Sagan and his crazy salutes, he’s 22, he’s got plenty of time to grow old and dignified,” said David Millar.

TheDude July 5, 2012 at 9:01 pm

Isn’t Cav famous for flashing the middle “bird” finger salute on a few occasions as part of his victory ritual?

This seems more juvenile and tasteless than a running man salute.
A fun coffee table book would be: “The Pictorial History of Cycling’s Victory Salutes” LOL

Jan July 7, 2012 at 10:12 pm

I have thought of Sagans gestures since he won his first stages as a pro-rider, especially since Paris-nice 2010. I did not understand their meaning. But I came to conclusion that there is nothing specifically worrying about them. He is an introverted type of personality, rather shy boy, who was thrown into big world. His communication, at least in his most ecstatic moments, is one-sided, and very similar to that of autistic kids. But he is obviously not autistic. So what can it be? One can wonder that it can be an expression od ignorance. I ignore public in order to make a gesture that only some people understand. Sounds like ignorance. But he is not an ignorant. He is a friendly person. Btw. why did cancellara urge him to pull? Cancellara must have known that sagan can not pull, because he had GC riders (Nibali, Basso) behind him. So what can it be so odd about Sagan? I think that there is really nothing wrong about him. He comes from the eastern Europe, and we, East-Europeans have always had weakness for avantgarda. When I was recruited by a british company, many years ago, we had to write something on our name badge, that would express us. It seemt to me childish and stupid, so i wrote there something even more childish and more stupid “I want to ride my bicycle”. and I wore it for 2 years:-) And many Slovaks and Polish wore similar useless messages, like “kung-fu master”, “i know what i want” and so on. So finally, the company banned messages on name- badges. Only after some time I understood the meaning of it, which is COMMUNICATION. Sagan is yet to understand, how to communicate with people. He will grow-up. Dont worry.

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