Cycling’s RocknRoll star: The invasion of Peter Sagan
If yours is a cycling household then it is very certain that watching cycling also becomes part of the obsession. When an amateur cyclist is not on the bike, he is usually watching hours of footage, devoting all his free time to hero worshiping. Youtube is swamped by new videos by Global Cycling Network (GCN), Facebook is overflowing with crispy fresh articles by Cycling Weekly and every third picture on Instagram has a bike in it. And the obsession just grows. In July 2016 it grew to the extent that for three whole weeks my brother and I got completely consumed by the Tour de France. The 3000 mile race – stretched across 24 days – had us glued to our tele each day for 5 hours. We have been following the tour for over a decade now but never with such intensity. Obviously, it had an impact on me. My vocabulary would only respond to French terms the next few weeks and I refused to watch anything else on the television after the tour ended. Watching all the pros go at it every evening was a delight, and more so because I could witness the exploits of the world’s most loved cyclist, Peter Sagan.
Peter Sagan hails from the town of Žilina, Slovakia and is the youngest of three siblings. Sagan started to ride bikes at the age of nine when he joined Cyklistický spolok Žilina, a small local club in his home town. Throughout his junior years Sagan rode both mountain bikes and road bikes, and was well known for his unconventional style of riding in tennis shoes and T-shirts, drinking just pure water. He drew a significant amount of attention when he appeared at the Slovak Cup with a bicycle borrowed from his sister. Our man had mistakenly sold his own and had not received a spare from the Velosprint sponsor in time. He won the race despite riding a supermarket bike with poor brakes and limited gearing. Most of his life has progressed with entertaining incidents such as this and for this reason, he is considered the cheekiest yet most adored cyclist in the circuit.
The long list of anecdotes just grows. Cyclists have a reputation for being a clinical, monk-like bunch, but Sagan smashes the stereotype with both his on and off-bike antics. There was no better example than his audacious, remarkable cover video of the Grease hit You’re The One That I Want. The Grease video wasn’t the first time Sagan had been dressed up in front of the cameras, because his wedding to Smolkova was every bit as outlandish. Sagan turned up wearing traditional Slovakian attire and at one point posed for a photograph on a bicycle that was perched on a bar 12ft off the ground, suspended by wires.
Sagan is the king of the wheelie and never passes up a chance to showcase his skills. Sagan’s premier party trick is his no-handed wheelie, which he even managed to pull off while climbing up the legendary Alpe d’Huez ascent during the 2013 Tour.
The current world champion high 5’s his opponents once they cross the finish line, irrespective of who wins the race – most often the Great One himself. He’s known to showcase his body hair like a real daredevil – something most professionals would swear against. His unconventional habits are further spiced by his long blonde curls, adding to the persona he has created.
If his antics are unheard to some, his achievements are surely the talk of the town. Sagan is the first rider to win the Maillot Vert, the Green Jersey, for a record 5 consecutive years, starting from his first Tour attempt in 2012. The Slovak is a pure sprinter and is a Classics specialist. The Classics are One Day races and can be compared to the 5 main Opens in the tennis circuit. Victories in the Tour of Flanders, Gent – Wevelgem and the E3 Harelbeke are some of his famous Classic wins. I only started worshipping Sagan after watching the 2015 World Road Race Championship held in Richmond, USA. The last kilometre of the race was a steep climb up to the finish, and Sagan easily overpowered his rivals and left them in his tracks to claim his first World Championship. Once he was sure he was on his way to the podium, he entertained the fans with a no-hand wheelie while crossing the finish line. Cheeky, indeed.
For a non cyclist, Peter Sagan can be clubbed in the same league as Liam Gallagher, Novak Djokvic and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The antics of Sagan and Zlatan are fairly similar. They both have won titles across the globe, won every where they’ve been and are not shy of showcasing their humour and cocky behaiviour. And yet, the fans love them.
The Man in Green has caused destruction and mass havoc in his path to success, and for that he has acquired the nicknames ‘Tourminator’ and ‘Hulk’. He is a simple man with a genuine love for cycling. He loves to be in front of the camera, but has ensured that the fame doesn’t get to his head. Sagan can be seen signing autographs, clicking selfies with fans and making a complete fool of himself while being interviewed. He doesn’t care much for race results and it seems to me that he’s just always enjoying himself doing what he loves the most.
Sagan is a super charged engine on the road and his riding style just adds to his captivating persona. Most sprinters are helped to the front of the peloton by their team mates, the domestiques. In the case of the man in question, he demands very little from his teammates. All he expects from them is to see a few faces around him, a few voices in the bunch, maybe a wheel or a bike change. If he is going to do anything, it would be an individual effort. . I don’t think he ever has a jour sans, a term the French use for a day when a cyclist is drained of physical strength.
The job of a sprinter is pretty clear cut as they fight each other inch for inch. The end of the race is always gripping and nervy but Sagan is most entertaining in the first half of the race – he smiles and waves at the crowd as he floats between the peloton and makes his way to the front. Well, July is around the corner – my brother and I will be soon glued to our television screens, though Ill be watching from Gurgaon and him from Chennai. It’s the love for the Tour that breaks the silence in the room. Theres not much else we talk about, and the moment we hear Peter Sagan’s name over the commentary, we jump in our seats and take a huge gulp of our beer. And rightly so, I am sure Sagan would approve.