Peter Sagan now boasts a small sliver of purple to add to his sea of green.
The Slovakian completed a “dream” by taking home the ciclamino points jersey at the Giro d’Italia by a slim 18-point lead over Davide Cimolai. Sagan’s point haul of 136 was far lower than he achieved in 2020, but it was enough to seal the deal in Milano on Sunday.
The distinctive garment will go nicely next to Sagan’s seven green jerseys from the Tour de France in his closet. After a lean period – at least by the three-time former world champion’s standards anyway – in grand tour points competitions, the success is a big boost at a key moment in his career.
“I’m very happy and proud to step on the final podium in Milan, wearing the ciclamino jersey of the Giro d’Italia,” Sagan said after Sunday’s stage. “It has been a dream of mine for many years and I am delighted to see it come true today. I’d like to thank the race organizers, the incredible Italian public that was back on the roads cheering for us, and all my teammates for their work in these three tough weeks of racing.”
It was clear on stage 18 just how much Sagan wanted the maglia ciclamino as he threw his metaphorical and physical weight around the front of the peloton, in an attempt to monitor entrants into the breakaway.
His efforts earned him a fine and a few points off his UCI total, but it was enough to ensure he would ride into Milano in purple.
It caps off a solid and equally important Giro d’Italia for Sagan, who also snatched a stage win at the end of the first week.
With his contract negotiations for the 2021 season, his Giro performance shows that Sagan is still a bankable rider for whichever team has the money and the space to accommodate him. There is no doubt that Sagan will find a home for next season, but a Giro stage win and the maglia ciclamino will be a nice sweetener.
While it doesn’t look likely that he will ever return to the same prolific standards he had when he first entered the sport, he’s still good for some big wins during a season.
The few big successes are also offset by the huge amount of publicity he can garner, whatever he does on the road.
More column inches have been written about Sagan’s 2022 team prospects than just about anything else in cycling, and despite the rumor mill, we’re no closer to knowing where he’ll land come January 1.
Some potential destinations appear to have been crossed off Sagan’s ticket, however.
Deceuninck-Quick-Step manager Patrick Lefevere played down many of the rumors linking his squad with the Slovakian. The Belgian veteran of contract negotiations poured cold water last week on any remaining embers of hope that some may have held.
Of course, Lefevere was interested – who wouldn’t be, it’s Peter Sagan – but signing him would mean taking on too big of an entourage, which includes up to 10 people. With Remco Evenepoel, Julian Alaphilippe, and Kasper Asgreen all secured for 2022, there is certainly less incentive for Lefevere to impose all that Sagan brings with him onto the team.
Sagan wants to bring several key riders, including his brother, Daniel Oss, and Maciej Bodnar, as well as his support staff that includes his preferred mechanic, soigneur, PR person, and perhaps even a sport director.
For Lefevere, who’s crafted the Wolf Pack mystique, a “team within a team,” as he put it, just won’t fit.
“A state of affairs regarding Peter Sagan: it looks like he will not be riding for our team next year. I was interested, but not by the conditions that were on the table,” Lefevere wrote in his column for the Het Niewsblad newspaper.
In a press call during the first rest day of the Giro, Lefevere had laid out the reasons he wouldn’t be able to add Sagan to his roster.
“I don’t want a team within a team, so I don’t know if I can fit him into my team and ambitions. And then there is a question of money. I don’t know if my sponsors would want to spend that money. Sagan’s career is winding down, but it’s not over yet. Look at riders like Cavendish and Gilbert,” he said.
Bound for France?
If Deceuninck-Quick-Step is almost certainly off the cards, then where next for Sagan?
Lefevere indicated another team that might be interested in Sagan’s services: Total Direct Énergie. Both L’Équipe and Gazzetta dello Sport have also recently linked him with the French ProTeam squad.
It would be a move from left field but not so unusual for Sagan.
Back when he signed with Bora-Hansgrohe, the German team was in cycling’s second tier with ambitions of stepping up a level. If he was to take the leap and sign for the French team, it would be a similar move.
Total Direct Énergie has shown growing ambitions in recent years, snapping up more international riders in Nikki Terpstra, Edvald Boasson Hagen, and Chris Lawless, but it is still missing a big winner in its ranks. If the team can find the cash, then there should be plenty of room for Sagan and his entourage to fit in.
Of course, there is still a chance that he could stay with Bora-Hansgrohe, but with the on-form Sam Bennett rumored to be returning to the team, he might find himself muscled out of some of the biggest races.
No matter what he does, Sagan packs the headlines, both on and off the bike.