A sentence that we’re all probably thinking right about now? Peter Sagan is single-handedly saving professional cycling. The parallels between Sagan and a certain other savior (Messiah?) go beyond incredible facial hair and a laid-back attitude. Sagan is breathing life into a sport that is standing precariously on the edge of becoming monotonous and digitized to the extent that it’s on the verge of being unwatchable.
If there’s another, less religious, parallel to be drawn with Sagan, it’s the sport’s other big star, Chris Froome. While an interview with Sagan has fans waiting with baited breath to hear what he’ll say or whose butt he’ll grab, an interview with Froome is a painful regurgitation of the same cliches about “marginal gains” and “it doesn’t matter until July” that are repeated from March through September. Mechanical, stiff, and vanilla to a fault, Froome’s personality doesn’t put forth a fraction of the entertainment value that fans experience during an episode of the Sagan show.
Like their interviews, their racing styles are equally dissimilar. Froome, a two-wheeled math equation, rides to numbers and instructions like an extremely skinny automaton. It’s certainly an effective strategy, but it leaves the racing more than a bit predictable and stagnant for the viewers. Sagan, on the other hand, is the model of cycling improvisation. From days spent in the breakaway in the mountains to win green jerseys, to daredevil descents to win the World Championships, Sagan races to win in a manner than not even greats like Boonen and Cancellara can rival.
Critics say Sagan lacks the tactical prowess to dominate the sport in the way his skills and talent should allow, but I hardly think this an accurate criticism. The difference between racing to win and racing not to lose is immense, and it results in more than a few seconds places over the course of a career. But when the risk is rewarded, the fans get to see a cycling virtuoso that keeps us tuning in on pirated livestreams every weekend all season long. And that is how Sagan will keep cycling relevant in the minds of enthusiasts – by giving them something and someone to root for every weekend.
Miss the races this weekend? We’ve got you covered.