Peter Sagan makes a comeback


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Peter Sagan recently claimed his first victory of the 2020 road cycling season and his first Giro stage victory ever.

Puneet Bansal, Contributing Reporter

This year has been quite different for everyone. With the myriad of changes that have accompanied the pandemic, things have been more unpredictable than usual.

Peter Sagan has felt this.

The Tour de France, the most prominent cycling race in the world, commenced in late August this year after being delayed by two months. For many riders, this was their first major race following the quarantine period.

For Sagan, the Tour began like any other: by the third stage, he led the competition for the green sprinter’s jersey and seemed poised to retain it, just as he had done seven times prior. Within the first ten stages, however, the Irish rider Sam Bennett began challenging Sagan’s position. A fierce battle for the green jersey took center stage in the subsequent stages. The intermediate sprints, generally worth a measly 20 points for the first rider across, became invaluable as Sagan and Bennett fought over every point. This back-and-forth continued to the end of the Tour, but it was clear that Bennett was the faster man. At every sprint finish, Sagan secured podium finishes but never won a stage, while Bennett kept his excellent form and emerged as the best sprinter in the Tour.

Bennett was victorious and won the green jersey over Sagan by 96 points. Sagan, the seven-time green jersey winner and defending champion, was officially dethroned. 

“At the Tour I can say it didn’t go well or badly. I lacked a bit of luck, but I came out well from the Tour,” Sagan said while speaking to journalists after the Tour. “Condition is one thing but results are another. I did well overall but something was missing.”

Following this major loss, Sagan turned his attention towards a new challenge: the Giro d’Italia. Since he began his professional cycling career in 2009, the Giro is the only Grand Tour that Sagan has never participated in.

“I’ve never done two Grand Tours in such a short time, but I want to do the best I can and win some stages,” says Sagan of competing in the Giro. “After a couple days, we’ll see if I can even fight for the point jersey. This year is very strange and different from the others,” he added.

 Unsurprisingly, by the third stage, Sagan had already established himself within the top three in the overall sprint competition. At the end of stage four, Sagan wore the Maglia Ciclamino jersey, leading the points competition for the first time ever at the Giro. However, close behind lurked the French sprinter Arnaud Démare, only behind by five points after the fifth stage.

Stage six of the Giro culminated in a bunch sprint. Unfortunately for Sagan, Démare proved stronger than everyone. He won the stage and took the sprints jersey from Sagan’s shoulders. Once again, it appeared that Sagan’s challenger would beat him at every sprint finish.

In stage 10, however, the riders found themselves in hilly terrain. This was where Sagan could take advantage.

For most of the stage, Sagan led a breakaway of seven powerful riders. As the gap between the riders and the peloton shortened to less than three minutes, Dario Cataldo attacked. Only Sagan and Ben Swift were able to keep up and the other four riders were dropped.

As the four-rider group reached the hilly roads towards the end of the route, Sagan and Swift broke away. Within the next few climbs, Sagan attacked and never looked back. He powered through the final climb and raced through the final 5 km uncontested.

Sagan claimed his first victory of the 2020 road cycling season and his first Giro stage victory ever. He also became the 100th rider in cycling history to win a stage in all three Grand Tours.

The stage 10 win was an unorthodox one. In previous years, Sagan has primarily won stages with sprint finishes supported by his team. His solo victory in the 2020 Giro exemplifies how versatile of a rider Sagan is, especially compared to other sprinters.

Given this year’s developments, it’s possible that we could see a change in Sagan’s riding style. He may start using his climbing skills to put more pressure on other sprinters during the mountain stages. There’s also a chance that, as he ages and loses his explosiveness, he may want to become a contender in the general classification competition. 

Of course, only time will tell. But for now, one thing is for certain: Peter Sagan is back.