CHARTRES, France (VN) — Peter Sagan is set to win the green points jersey if he makes it to Paris and finishes the Tour de France tomorrow. The Slovak, at just 22 years old, failed to disappoint and went above expectations in his debut.
“At the start of the Tour, I was convinced he was going to win the green jersey. Not three stages though,” Sagan’s Liquigas-Cannondale general manager, Roberto Amadio told VeloNews. “I thought, one stage and the green jersey. I thought he’d get one stage and place well, get intermediates, but it’s a big thing, three stage wins.”
Sagan leads the points competition by 122 points, 386 to 264, over André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). Even if Greipel won the intermediate and finishing sprint on the final day to Paris and Sagan finished outside the points, the German would still trail by 57 points.
Sagan’s stage win made in Seraing in the Tour’s opening road stage set him as the youngest stage winner since Lance Armstrong, who won at 21 years old in 1993. He is likely to become the youngest green jersey after Willy Planckaert, who also won at 22 years old in 1966.
The link to Armstrong deepens. Sagan debuted in professional cycling when he escaped with Armstrong in Australia’s Tour Down Under criterium in January 2010. In a short two-and-a-half years, Sagan has filled his palmarès with wins that would make a 10-year seasoned professional jealous.
He has gained the nickname Terminator for the tremendous haul: from California to Switzerland, he has collected stage wins. Last year, he won three legs and the points jersey at the Vuelta a España, his first grand tour. Leading into the Tour this year, he won five stages at the Amgen Tour of California and four in the Tour de Suisse — and the points jerseys in both events.
Sagan’s father received numerous telephone calls after his son won the Tour’s first leg to Seraing. Even if Sagan has been winning in many other races, this was the first time Slovakia aired one of his races. The people were shocked, but Liquigas was not.
“We knew what type of rider he is: quality,” one of Liquigas’ sports directors told VeloNews. “It’s just that the Tour de France can have different effects on a person, it can put a rider under additional pressure. [The Seraing win] was more a confirmation than a surprise. He’s strong, but that was confirmation that he’s exceptional.”
Sagan beat seasoned professionals Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan) and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky) on the final kick to Seraing. They were tough customers when you consider that Cancellara had already spent 22 days in the yellow jersey in his career and that Boasson Hagen won two stages last year.
Sagan took the green jersey in stage 2 and never let it go. He won two more stages — at Boulogne-sur-Mer and Metz — but also featured in several serious escapes. On stage 14 to Foix, he escaped, won the 20 points at the intermediate sprint and collected the second-place points on the finish line behind Luis León Sánchez (Rabobank).
Aside from Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Sagan was the most visible man in the race from start to finish.
“The Tour is another experience, an all together different three-week race. I learned that if you are going well one day, you can go poorly the next!” Sagan told VeloNews.
He said that he will not stop here and that he will live up to his Terminator name: “The Olympics come in a week and then the world championships… There are always races to be had.”